As we usher in the Year of the Rabbit on the lunar calendar, the 2nd edition of Cultural Fusion hops from Oceania to Europe, presenting six London-based Asian artists who add to the canon of the multicultural vibe of the international art hub. Hiroko Imada, Yarli Allison, Xiaoyuan Wu, Mizuki Nishiyama, Hyemin Gil, and Noel Zhang exhibit their unique narratives through thoughtfully curated artworks that explore a multitude of dimensions of cultural fusion.
Cultural Fusion, in the analysis of Dr Martha Liew for the inaugural edition of this series of exhibitions, provides an overall framework in explaining how dominant and minority cultures interact and create intercultural identity in both the migrant and host communities. Multiculturalism, as one of the defining characters of London, articulates cultural diversity in society and the peaceful co-existence of different cultures, asserting cross-fertilisation of traditions, ideas and knowledge in a “salad bowl” where each element is enriched yet intact. Today, the diverse diaspora communities, especially in the capital city, are one of the factors underpinning the United Kingdom’s strong performance in international soft power rankings. Amongst the nomadic creatives who drift onshore British land are Asian artists beholding shared yet distinctive oriental heritages. Such a convergence of the West and East capacitates Asian artists to defy old stereotypes and redefine themselves amidst world-class arts and cultural institutions. At the same time, cultural nomadism softens rigid social and civic structures with unconventional methods, refreshing the landscape in the local cultural ecosystem.
Cultural Fusion 2023 has the pleasure of inviting six London-based Asian artists to speak for multiculturalism through sharing their artistic concepts, creative practice and artworks, which are, to different extents, informed by their heritage as well as their journeys of transformation and integration. Tokyo-born artist Hiroko Imada exhibits demonstrable Japanese techniques with a modern twist in her lithographs and screen prints to capture the movements of water – a natural and mystic element that intrigues our imagination. Her collaboration with British musicians Nicholas Sabisky and Meg Storer exemplifies a cross-cultural jam between different genres of arts that inspire each other – allowing different cultures to fuse in harmony. Yarli Allison, based on her experience of moving to different places in a web of locations, including her birthplace of Ottawa, heritage of Hong Kong and latest base of London, investigates the expedition of Chinese seafarers to England as coal miners since the mid-19th century and their subsequent deportation from Liverpool after the Second World War through her earnest research and innovative “digital gamification” output. Coming from the coal-mining city of Huainan in China, Xiaoyuan Wu puts together a video that pays tribute to his late grandfather, who worked as a coal miner, and reflects upon the Chinese virtue of filial piety. Sensitive to his new home in London, he intimately responds in his paintings to the stories and cultures of the new environment, exploring his search for identity in a multicultural city and his unwavering ambitions as an artist. Born and raised in Hong Kong with Japanese paternal ancestry and rich Italian exposures, Mizuki Nishiyama expresses through her paintings the observations on feminism with reference to Japanese social conventions imposed upon women. In her latest tapestry experiments, she infuses Japanese philosophies on life and death and reinterprets the traditional patriarchal system through her modern and feminine craftsmanship. Also a young female artist, Hyemin Gil unveils her personal journey of moving from Seoul to London, and refashions her installation works in Jeju Island and Seoul into new originals in London, playing with site-specificity in a nomadic manner alongside the artists’ relocation. Her works are interwoven between reality and memory – a duality of perceptions that guide her practice. As a second-generation British-Chinese, Noel Zhang documents the quotidian of Asian migrants in London, which they call home, by devoting himself and his camera to the Hackney community in the past two years. This immersive approach aids the artist’s examination of his own Chinese heritage.
Lunar New Year is a time for rejoice. The zodiac animal for 2023 – 24, the Rabbit, is a symbol of agility and progress in Asian culture and a mascot for birth and a new beginning in some Western parts of the world. The overlapping of such unique yet not dissimilar interpretations forges a common ground for us to stand in solidarity, in times of both celebrations and mourning, with a sprinkle of optimism for a better future. I hope this exhibition will demonstrate the exciting facets of Asian cultures fusing with the London art scene, and sow the seeds for intercultural collaborations between East and West.
Curator: Alison Lo