Artist: Howie Tsui

Chinese Artists

The Artist Who Creates Counter-Narratives That Fuse East Asian Traditions With Western Underground Culture – Howie Tsui

Inspired by the notion of suspended adolescence, Howie Tsui’s work often dives deep into the liminal and oscillating space of diasporic experience, employing subversive, disobedient and derisive strategies to examine the complexities of identity, history, superstition and fear.

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Nigeria and Thunder Bay, Tsui is now based in Vancouver. In 2005 he received the Joseph Stauffer Prize from the Canada Council for most outstanding young artist. His work is in the public collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Canada Council Art Bank, City of Ottawa, Ottawa Art Gallery and Centre d’exposition de Baie-Saint-Paul.

In 2015 he had his first show in Shanghai, Bites Back at Art Labor, a group exhibition that questioned the efficacy of Neo-liberalism. “I produced two large works on paper that featured chaotic martial arts battle scenes, intended to connect themes and narratives of a fictive genre Wuxia (once banned in China), with real-world efforts of resistance against authoritative bodies.”

Tsui’s art is at once mesmerising for its detail and scale, while at the same time playful and fun. What message does he actually want to convey? “I tend to create counter-narratives that employ satire or exaggeration to disarm manipulated histories that shape dominant thought,” he explains.

And his inspiration, where does that come from? “I think they stem from very early formative exposure to fiction and fantasy, and how that triggered my imagination and desire to create.” He continues, “I’m loving the animations coming out of the Wong Ping Animation Lab.”

Looking at Tsui’s artworks, it’s clear that his mixed heritage and formative experiences in different countries have impacted his style, fusing East Asian traditions with Western Underground Culture. In future will he carry on working on paper with brush and drafting tools? “Painting on canvas usually feels really good, but I feel self-conscious, that I’m adopting a westernised standard as to what is valuable,” he counters. “Recently, I’ve learned a lot collaborating with media artists, programmers, and engineers. It feels like creative possibilities have really opened up.”

From March 2017 Howie will be touring his new solo project Retainers of Anarchy, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. What are his plans for the show? “Finding more venues to share that project, especially in Asia,” he says. What is without a doubt is that Howie Tsui will be one to keep an eye on in future.

Celestials of Gold Mountain, acrylic on canvas (2010)
Dead Sea, ink and paint pigment on mulberry paper, 96.52×317.5cm (2009)
Drag Spud, ink and paint on mylar, 22.8×22.4cm (2008)
Falcon, ink and paint on mylar, 22.7×22.5cm (2008)
Forest Romp, ink and paint pigment on mulberry paper, 96.52×317.5cm (2009)
Hercy, ink and paint on mylar, 27.9×21.5cm (2008)
Avuncular Impulses (2006)
Retainers of Anarchy (Tavern Havoc), 109x209cm
The Talent (2006)
Mantis Prey, ink and paint on mylar, 25.3×21.5cm
Retainers of Anarchy (Taohua Island), 38×75 (2014)

Solo Exhibitions
2017 – Retainers of Anarchy, Vancouver Art Gallery
2013 – Friendly Fire, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon
2013 – Horror Fables, Le Gallery, Toronto
2013 – Celestials of Gold Mountain, Wil Aballe Art Projects, Vancouver
2012 – Radiant Specters, Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco
2012 – Friendly Fire, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (catalogue)
2011 – Celestials of Saltwater City, Centre A (Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art)
2010 – Horror Fables, MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels)
2010 – of Manga & Mongrels, Gallery Jones, Vancouver
2009 – Horror Fables, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (catalogue)
2009 – Horror Fables, Ace Art Inc., Winnipeg
2008 – of Shunga & Monsters, Le Gallery, Toronto
2007 – of Manga & Mongrels, G+ Gallery, Toronto
2006 – of Manga & Mongrels, Gallery 101, Ottawa

Selected Group Exhibitions
2015 – Bites Back, Art Labor Gallery, Shanghai
2015 – Anatomica, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax
2015 – 越界/粵界 (transgression/cantosphere), Centre A (Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art)
2015 – Out of Line, Oakville Galleries
2015 – Truth of the Matter, Ottawa Art Gallery
2014 – Shine A Light: Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (catalogue)
2014 – A Journal of the Plague Year – Islands Off the Shore of Asia, Para Site, Hong Kong
2014 – Thru the Trapdoor, On Main Gallery, Vancouver
2014 – Neo Folk, Ikkan Art International, Singapore
2014 – Beside Yourself, Audain Art Centre, Vancouver
2013 – You Cannot Kill What is Already Dead, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Toronto
2013 – Spatial Poetics XII: Release Me, Powell Street Festival, Vancouver
2013 – Intersections, Cineworks, Vancouver
2013 – Accumulations, Le Gallery, Toronto
2013 – A Clear Blazing Trail, Magic Pony Gallery, Toronto
2012 – Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (catalogue)
2012 – The Calendar’s Tales, 808 Gallery, Boston University School of Fine Arts
2012 – Local Flora, Galerie SAW Gallery, Ottawa
2011 – Picture Book 1, Interurban Gallery, Vancouver
2011 – Place and Circumstance, City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa
2010 – Exploded View, Ottawa Art Gallery
2010 – Monster, West Vancouver Museum
2010 – Made in Canada, Shenkman Arts Centre, Orleans
2010 – Par Chemin, Yves Laroche Galerie d’art, Montreal
2009 – Life Drawing, Narwhal Art Projects, Toronto
2008 – Hut on an Island, Grasshut Gallery, Portland
2008 – Listen to your Heart, MOHS Exhibit, Copenhagen
2008 – Parcours et Perspectives, Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
2007 – The Pleasure, Jaime Torres Bodet Cultural Centre, Mexico City
2006 – Paper Pushers, Gallery 1988, Los Angeles
2006 – Fresh Start, Arena 1 Gallery, Santa Monica
2006 – I Am 8-Bit, Gallery 1988, Los Angeles
2006 – Said and Done, AntiSocial Gallery, Vancouver
2005 – Enjoy Relax Happy, Niagara Gallery, Toronto
2005 – My Culture Includes My Scene, Ottawa Art Gallery
2005 – Then and Now, Gene Siskel Film Center of the Chicago Institute of Art
2005 – Semi-Permanent05: Sketchel, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Australia
2004 – Coming Soon, Gene Siskel Film Center of the Chicago Institute of Art
2004 – Fresh Produce 04, Gallery Anno Domini, San Jose
2003 – Scatalogue: 30 Years of Crap in Contemporary Art, Galerie SAW Gallery, Ottawa
2003 – Affordable Art Fair, Pier 92, New York
2002 – Luck be a Weirdo Tonight, Zero to One Gallery, Kitchener

Horror Fables, installed at CUAG
Horror Fables, installed at CUAG
Horror Fables, installed at MAI

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