The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.
John Berger, 1972
The complex iconological architectures of Renaissance altarpieces and frescoes require a considerable intellectual effort on our behalf. The intrinsic subject matter may ultimately elude us and those artworks become surfaces on which to project our own personal and cultural narrative. For the contemporaries of that time, instead, the visual was used precisely for an extremely direct dialogue. Today we believe to dominate several cultures and languages. This confidence is lacking in the many diasporic children of our time, who are aware of the distances impossible to fill, as in the case of the painter Oscar yi Hou.
Born in Liverpool to Cantonese parents and currently residing in New York, yi Hou skilfully uses the best-known iconographies of the two hemispheres (recognizable to the most). His way of painting too: on one hand is clearly fauve in style, and therefore European; on the other it refers to Chinese tradition in the format and the use of writing. A calligraphy familiar and yet unreadable for him.
This partial frustration is “the gift” to those who look at his paintings, especially the black and white image-poems where the artist chooses the hegemonic language par excellence, English, and makes it difficult to decipher through blurring. An opacity that makes everyone both short and far-sighted in the much-needed effort to regain the lost calm of being able to see. A return to visual alphabetization for us and an ongoing search for a home for yi Hou.
— Manuela Pacella