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Oriental Beauties

Oriental Beauties

‘Oriental Beauties’ – Wen Wu & Dorothy M Yoon, is currently being exhibited at Eight Club, curated by Yu Sun, in conjunction with MvF Associates for art club

Adopting the trappings of the Western creation of the “oriental woman”- the submissive, the decorative and the nude, some caught in a time capsule of chinoiserie, and silk scrolls – Wu and Yoon have each created a series of works that play with our gaze. They make us question how we look and what we see.

For both artists the images are multiple, Yoon creating the series ’13 of Blondes’ and ‘Eight Blondes’, while Wu has created a series of nudes as historic landscapes of China, and a series of portrait heads seen from behind. Questions are thus raised on identity and the individual.

Top Left: Peking Girl, Top Right: June, Bottom Left:National Day,Bottom Right:

Wu’s series of headshots, recall the quiet paintings of Vilhelm Hammershoi. However there is something else here that feeds into the idea of the passive, faceless woman, observed, but not observing. This is not lost on Wu, who stretches the point- the women are distinguished only by the superficial- their hairstyles, and the works are given titles such as ‘Peking Girl’, ‘National Day’, ‘June’, ‘April’, and ‘May’ that bring to mind propaganda, garage pin-ups and calendar girls. According to the artist, they are depicting women attending military/party events in Tiananmen Square, as a patchwork crossing the timeline.

Using the nude as a visual depiction of China’s history, Wu gives the seemingly personal and decorative, great weight- throughout the series we are shown changing hairstyles, the feet move from the bound, to the balletic through to the heeled. Hairstyles change from the pigtailed, to the bobbed to the waved. Wu’s choice of the nude as the canvas to convey this history complicates our interpretation further, as “the nude” itself is heavy with its own history and connotations. The nudes here move from the coy (‘1911’) to the assertive (‘1958’), the reflective (‘1968’)- a red ribbon, representing the blood shed that occurred during the Cultural Revolution, the broken (‘1989’)- a comment on Tiananmen Square, and full frontal (‘2008’).

From left-right; Wen Wu – 1911,1958 and 1968

Yoon’s work in ’13 of Blondes’ and ‘Eight Blondes’, is reminiscent of the role play of Cindy Sherman. Yoon adopts a variety of female personas from Grimm’s fairytales through to the historical. Dressed as a “blonde”, in each, we know who we are looking at by the clothing alone. As much as the silk scroll, or the chinoiserie informs us about a contemporary woman from South Korea, the Little Mermaid tells us about a contemporary American woman, we are faced with a fantasy meeting a fantasy- two myths in one.

Little Red Riding Hood, Right: The Little Mermaid

Wednesday 8 June-Thursday 28 July
By appointment only. Please contact
Eight Club, 1 Change Alley, London, EC3V 3ND