OSCAR YI HOU

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Q: Tell us about your practice

A: I work mainly in oil paint, working on either canvas or paper. Deploying language, symbology, and figuration, my work deals with the complexity of a personhood rendered minor.

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Q: Big part of your body of work is figurative portraits of people that you're close to. Can you explain how do you approach painting these figures?

A: Compositionally I pull from a variety of sources — images, archives, other paintings, life, and sketches. 

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Q: Compositionally you’ve used borders to infuse a lot of the symbolism that is iconic to your works. What is your approach in bringing the figures and the symbols together within your paintings?

A: I will often use symbols to signify the figures I paint. Since I try and paint the relationship I share with these figures,
I will often signify this relationship through such symbols.

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Q: Writing and language, in general, seem to be integral aspects of your practice, whether it's your take on Chinese characters or infusing your own poems into the work. Can you explain a little bit the thought behind that?

A: For me, language was just something I’ve always done alongside art-making. And I think any one of the diasporas has a complicated relationship to language. For me, I’ve always had an estranged relationship with Chinese—a foreign language I can’t read or write, yet one that I feel intimate and familiar with. My use of illegible language in my paintings expresses such a relationship.

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COLLECTOR'S QUOTE

“What struck me most about Oscar's painting was the humanity of his subjects and how real they are. Depicting the complex identities of his sitters, Oscar addresses contemporary themes such as ethnicity and fluid sexuality that resonate with today’s youth. Everything in Oscar's paintings points to his dual identities. He uses symbols and letters from English and Chinese scripts, producing something at once familiar, but also gibberish. His style and visual language are unique to him and instantly recognizable. Oscar refuses any sort of categorization and embraces his in-betweenness as a key aspect of the human condition.”

ARIF SUHERMAN

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The Here and There Collective, LLC is a New York limited-liability company operating through a fiscal sponsorship with Players Philanthropy Fund, a Maryland charitable trust recognized by IRS as a tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Federal Tax ID: 27-6601178). Contributions to The Here and There Collective are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.