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Giving voice to “The Descendants” of diaspora


Every new generation of artists bears the double-edged gift of history. To pioneer a new chapter, they must inevitably confront the past, often fraught with legacies of loss, oppression, displacement, and resistance.


Aptly titled “The Descendants,” WOAW Gallery’s latest exhibition explores an intersection of social themes through the paintings of 23 international young artists. Curated and organized by Melanie LumMicki Meng, and Kevin Poon, “The Descendants” is the gallery’s second exhibition held at venue partner K11 MUSEA, following last year’s “Hot Concrete: LA to HK.” While “Hot Concrete” examined Los Angeles’ cityscape, “The Descendants” broadens its scope to a multicultural medley of identities around the globe, tackling current topics such as diaspora, race, and gender.



Read about WOAW Gallery’s first exhibition at K11 MUSEA


Experimenting with portraiture and landscape, the artists examine their unique heritage — or, in some cases, question the very concept of “heritage” itself. A number of diasporic artists reflect on their fragmented relationship to their culture of origin, the generational pain they have inherited, and the stereotypes they must fight to dismantle in daily life to assert their identities.


We highlight the works of 5 artists of Asian heritage currently based in North America, each conveying a distinct narrative of their own cultural crossing. Together, they offer a thought-provoking take on our global history of migration and displacement. Shedding light on the tangled relationship between the past and the present, the artists imagine a future where more voices can freely emerge from the margins to share the stage in art and life.

Coolieisms, aka: Emperor Manchu the Cowboy (2023) by Oscar yi Hou

The “Coolieisms” series is Oscar yi Hou’s reclamation of the slur “coolie,” a 19th-century term used against working-class Chinese immigrant laborers in North America. Deconstructing the image of the effeminate Chinese man in American culture, the British artist celebrates his Chinese heritage through an unapologetically queer lens infused with cowboy western tropes. “Coolieisms” are a staple of yi Hou’s solo exhibition, “East of sun, west of moon.” At only 24 years old, yi Hou won the 2022 Uovo Prize with his 3,000-word proposal for the exhibition, now showing at the Brooklyn Museum.

Echoing Light (2023) by Keita Morimoto

Playing on the contrast between light and darkness, Echoing Light (2023) bears all the hallmarks of Japanese-born artist Keita Morimoto’s oeuvre. While his figurative paintings are reminiscent of Impressionists such as Rembrandt, whose style he fell in love with while studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Morimoto’s artistic style also draws inspiration from the Japanese animated films he grew up with in Osaka. Pursuing his career in Toronto, he reimagines the city at night on his canvases. His half-lit subjects, shrouded in an unspoken melancholy, evoke a sense of isolation from their surroundings.

Look Steadily and Intently (2021) by Dominique Fung

Look Steadily and Intently (2021) was first displayed at Dominique Fung’s New York solo exhibition, “It’s Not Polite to Stare”, aimed at challenging the Oriental fantasy that has plagued the Western cultural imagination. By framing a painting of “exotic” Eastern tropes within another painting, the Chinese Canadian artist turns the dominant Western gaze into literal objects, in the form of classical marble statues, for the viewer’s consumption.

Square of Ground (2023) by Nina Molloy

One of the more abstract paintings at the exhibition, Nina Molloy’s Square of Ground (2023) is also surprisingly literal, confronting the very space she inhabits. Inspired by Martin Wong’s urban landscapes, the Thai American mixed-race artist zooms in on the spaces and objects haunted by personal and intergenerational histories. Her solo exhibition, Shrine, contemplates her matrilineal heritage through paintings of Bangkok, her city of birth. “The Descendants” co-curator Micki Meng describes Molloy’s art as “richly textured portals that insist on the permeability between past and present, painted surface and subject, and memory and mythology.”

Spring Lovers (2023) by Bambou Gili

Like Keita Morimoto, Bambou Gili is known for her paintings set at nighttime, marked by a signature style of saturated blue and green hues. In response to the rise of violence against Asian American women in the United States, the New York-born artist champions the “female gaze” in her paintings, which often depict nude women in eccentric colors and casual states of vulnerability. Spring Lovers (2023) offers a moment of dreamlike respite for its pair of young subjects, sheltered by the tree’s shadow against the harsh glow of the sunset behind them.




“The Descendants”

September 2 – 17, 2023

6F, Kunsthalle, K11 Art & Cultural Centre, K11 MUSEA

Hong Kong