Chinese translation here
Hou Leong is a Chinese artist based in Canberra since 1989 who focuses on the ideas of cultural appropriation and perceptions in relation to identity and tradition. Through his simple and clever works, Leong raises questions of identity by combining and contrasting images of Asian people or landscapes with those of similar and familiar Australian images. Leong challenges dominant Anglo-Australian values. At the same time, an Asian-Australian culture successfully mingles with Anglo-Australian culture in his works, which demonstrate both cultural conflict and reconciliation.
Leong was born in Shanghai in 1964 and graduated from Shanghai Huashan Fine Arts School in 1983. He completed his Bachelors degree in Visual Arts with honours at the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University. His major solo exhibitions include “Paradox” at Canberra Contemporary Art Space and the Australian Embassy in Paris. He has also exhibited in “Transit” at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Moet & Chandon Touring Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria. Leong is not tied to Australia, and has also exhibited in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Japan.
Leong is best known for the photomontage series An Australian. In this series he questions the meaning of an Australian by replacing the face of an Australian figure in the photos with his own. The background of the photos represents the stereotypical value of the Anglo-Australian. For example, an Asian guy is present in an Australian outback pub, perceived as a real Australian thing. The first impression of this photo is one of ‘awkwardness’ due to the presence of an unexpected Asian guy in a typical white Australian space. When we look at the photo we feel awkward and stereotypical mindsets are encountered and questioned.
Another example is ’An Australian – Crocodile Dundee’, a parody of one of the most famous Australian icons, Mick Crocodile Dundee. Crocodile Dundee is a film which was directed by Peter Faiman and produced in 1986. The film parodies a stereotypically white Australian, Crocodile Dundee. At the same time, the film reinforces the stereotypes of Australia as a nation of white people with wild habits, to international audiences.
Leong has digitally reworked a still cut from the film. He has replaced Dundee’s white face with his own. Leong’s intention works effectively when people watch and are shocked when Dundee’s white blue-eyed face is unexpectedly replaced with that of an Asian. This depiction questions the stereotypical mindset of the average Australian. (Edmundson, 2009)
Leong also raises symbolic and cultural questions by using photos of landscapes such as “Shells on Li River.” He has placed the Sydney Opera House on the Li River in China, surrounded by Chinese mountains. The same awkwardness caused by unnatural combination occurs here as well. (Chiu, 1997)
In his recent art works, Leong’s approach has been expanded by questioning Australian values and considering Western traditions and moral standards. For example, he fuses Asian and Western traditions and artistic styles by painting in ink and oil. His questioning on different cultures continues.
An Australia – Crocodile Dundee
50 x 70cm