It’s almost become a meme amongst Asians: the only viable forms of employment in our cultures are either a) a doctor, b) a lawyer, c) an engineer, or d) a massive disappointment. It’s sad, in a way, but it also rings true for a lot of us. I never really grew up with Asian creatives to look up to; even as a Fine Art student during my GCSEs, my artist’s studies were always done on white artists: usually old, male, and dead due to some tragic reason or another.
But since I viewed Luo Yang’s ephemeral exhibition, Girls, at the Woofpack Gallery in Bangkok, I’ve become a lot more conscious of the types of creatives whose work I consume. Visibility is important, because visibility is representation – just because there’s not a lot of us in the industry doesn’t mean that we don’t exist. Given the current violence and xenophobia against Asians across the world, I wanted to show something more optimistic: the strength, beauty, and resilience that resonates through the community, both within the diaspora and within our homelands. So here are a few Asian creatives who have inspired me endlessly since I discovered them – I hope you love them just as much as I do.
Cho Gi Seok (@chogiseok)
Korean photographer Cho Gi Seok produces dream-like photographs, often blending human and flora until they become one and the same thing.
Wing Shya (@wingshya)
A close collaborator of Wong Kar-Wai (the celebrated director of films such as In The Mood For Love, 2000), Wing Shya captures Hong Kong with a caress of pure love. His palette exudes the same soft electricity of Wong’s films, and you can’t help but be romanced by the hidden stories in his photographs.
Azerbaijani visual artist Faig Ahmed creates the most stunning tapestries, playing the traditional weavings of oriental rugs against the contemporary act of visual distortion.
Luo Yang (@luoyangggg)
The photographer that started it all for me, Luo Yang focuses especially on Asian females. The womxn in her photos exude a type of fortified beauty that goes completely against the exotic-oriental caricature – a heady mixture of defiance threaded with warmth.
Raden Saleh Sjarif Boestamam
Boestamam was an Indonesian of Javanese-Arabic descent who created some of the most beautiful paintings of the Indonesian landscape. Even though he was trained as a romantic painter under Dutch colonial rule, Boestamam’s work radiates with a cultural tenderness, often incorporating the Indonesian landscape in his work.
Miki Kim (@_miki__kim)
One of my favourite illustrators/tattoo artists of all time, Miki Kim creates electrifyingly eccentric portrayals of the body, nature, and
the mythology. With most of her work done in bold, solid colours, expect fish enmeshed in long tendrils of soft, black hair, and delicate bouquets sprouting from elbows and feet.
Raven Lu (@hotbirdbath)
A non-binary tattoo artist based in NY, Raven creates some of the most delicate linework I’ve ever seen. Strong blacks and reds encapsulate most of their oriental-inspired work, depicting koi fishes, rabbit guardians, and introspective mythological creatures.