When many pass one way…: Akira the Hustler, Chen Wei, Jong YuGyong and ¥ouada


Ota Fine Arts Shanghai is delighted to present "When many pass one way..." a group exhibition featuring bold and dynamic artists from China and Japan. The title of this exhibition is referenced from Chinese writer, Lu Xun's famous novel entitled "My Old Home", where he asserted "for actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made." The four artists in this exhibition have endeavored to form alternative pathways and aesthetics in today's contemporary world, propelling new ideas of our times and creating new trajectories.

¥ouada's (b.1987) world goes beyond his paintings and sculptures, rather he presents a personalized visual world of wit, sassiness, coquettishness and kitsch. Tapping into his personal memories of growing up in China during the 80s and 90s, he depicts popular cartoon characters, imported anime figures alongside consumer goods, luxury symbols and local gang culture. He also adopts a consistent anti-mainstream approach and is unafraid to explore compositions that are seemingly distasteful, shocking, or unexpected. In this exhibition, he mines the intersection where art meets everyday life.

"Walking a yellow kitten that was frightened by a cucumber in the Tropics" depicts a macho Kangaroo with a cigarette in its mouth, a gold hunky chain around his neck and long silky whiskers. Despite its masculine and gangster-like image, it is accompanied by a docile pet that has been frightened by the most unlikely of things, a harmless vegetable. Elsewhere in "Happy picnic at Zhuantang Town", viewers witness a terrifying moment of a hamster in cold sweat, sharing a picnic with a drunken and malicious Sphynx cat. This image is inspired by his personal experience of growing up in a city similar to the 'Gotham city-like' town of Zhuantang. The depicted contradictions are unexpected and silly, often bringing a smile to its viewers. While contemporary artists are often under pressure to maintain some form of gravitas or intellectual rigour, ¥ouada maintains a spirit of joyful expressions where depth and enjoyment coincides.

Similarly, Chen Wei (b. 1980) invites us into a highly fictionalized world. One that he has constructed in the same manner that stage rehearsals are put together. Extending his explorations in city landscapes, Chen mines the interconnections between the inner and outer spaces of a city in "Spiral Party". A freestanding stairway stands in a seemingly derelict environment. The viewer does not know if this is part of an incomplete building or a remnant of a demolished block. Yet Chen does not provide these answers, except that the stairway is now reinvented in a new light, with dreamy pink hues and scattered glass balls around it. By pairing unique photographic composition and an amount of playfulness, he raises our sensitivity to urban and social changes around us.

Jong YuGyong's (b.1991) practice stems from his explorations of the differentiated yet conjoined histories of the Korean Peninsula and Japan. As a "Zainichi" -- a person who is treated as neither Japanese nor Korean, he is compelled to examine his relationships with these nations. While Jong was searching through the internet, he found old Korean posters that contained ideological slogans that seemed rather odd and humorous to him. He distorted the original compositions, and created a "pop" aesthetic of bright colors and black circles, diluting the original context of the posters. Written in bold across the canvas are the Korean words, "Victory", "Forward!" and "Unity". These formalized slogans have now become meaningless for the artist, blending into the work as part of its visual aesthetic. Jong's indifference to the slogans hint of the empty and inconsequential relationship that he shares with the Korean peninsula.

Japanese artist, Akira the Hustler (b. 1969) explores social issues that includes social inequality, energy security, AIDS and marginalized communities. Akira is curious about the role of art in society and tends to create works that are strewn with messages, formations and symbols. "Tools of Hope: Don't Tell Lies" depicts a girl with the head of a wolf (or wild dog). Her hands are raised in the shape of an "X" with repetitions of the word 'no' strewn across her chest. Akira was first inspired to create this work after seeing placards that were used in a mass citizens' activity that occurred in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo, Japan in June 2017. On the other hand, "A Boy on Skateboard" was created as part of a series of clay sculptures that was created in memory of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. The boy represents the ordinary teenager in simple clothes and an active lifestyle. On his left hand, a red string binds him to the shared reality and experience of others who had also witnessed the accident. Ordinary and extraordinary experiences come together in his works, raising awareness to issues that are easily forgotten by the vast majority of society.

Join Ota Fine Arts Shanghai as we explore the roads less travelled, the alternative pathways of thought and the colorful adventures of these four artists as they navigate life, art and society.

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