Asian artists are today's craze. We embark on our constant search for great contemporary art talents, so we set out to explore the wonderful continent of Asia and some of its most renowned street and urban art names. Even though they have already broken the restraints of geographical borders and became internationally famed figures that create artworks all around the world, we take a short trip to Iran, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan to point out ten street and contemporary Asian artists that we think deserve your attention, if they have not gained it already.
All images used for illustrative purposes only.
We start off the list with one of the biggest street art names from Hong Kong, a city where graffiti was almost unknown before the 1990s. After it was kick-started by the foreigners, graffiti art got picked up by the native urban writers a few years later. One of those native writers was Xeme who started his career in 2001 and is today considered to be the most prominent Hong Kong-based artist, and a true Asian graffiti pioneer.
Xeme is widely recognized as one of the first artists to utilize Chinese written language in his work, which is primarily based on letters and patterns. In addition to his exceptional street art, Xeme is known as the creator of the trend-setting Invasian street art magazine, which is primarily dedicated to covering street art created by Asian artists but also features street art talents from all over the world.
We continue our list of Asian artists with Jung Lee, an educated photographer from Seoul, South Korea, whose work spreads across sculpture and photography. Lee is renowned for her mesmerizing photographs of surreal text-based light installations made of neon tubes that explore the imagery potential of language.
Her seemingly empty cliché phrases of unanswered love and desire Lee places in deserted landscapes create beautiful photographs that reveal the solitude and sorrow of modern people. Juxtaposing these sentimental neon words of love to stark desolated countrysides and cold, snow-covered fields Lee's photographs give viewers a chance to find their own way into this magical world of memories and feelings.
Pharuephon Mukdasanit, widely known by his moniker Mamafaka, was one of the most prominent urban artists and graphic designers from Thailand. He was the founder of famous B.O.R.E.D. designer collective and the creator of Mr. HellYeah!, one of the Thai pop art's most recognizable characters. This one-eyed hairy monster with mustache appeared on murals, skateboards, iPhones and fashion items.
Mamafaka was an extraordinary artist, who was passionate about illustration and typography. He had a remarkable taste in design and a profound sense of humor. His work gained him fame and almost cult celebrity status. Sadly, Mamafaka died in 2013 following a surfing accident. He was only 34.
Lady Aiko Nakagawa is a Japan-born street artist, living and working in New York City. She is widely known as the founding member of renowned artist collective FAILE, but she rose to fame after she launched her solo career in 2006. AIKO's captivating mixed media art incorporates several techniques, including collage, stencils, spraypaint, and brushwork, and deals with subjects of sexuality, femininity, and the beauty of life.
These highly innovative pieces of extraordinary beauty and wonderful narratives, combine several influences and by looking at AIKO's paintings one can find traces of American contemporary art, Japanese traditional aesthetics, as well as pop art, street art and graffiti, all merged into one with amazing skill.
Taiwanese artist James Jean is internationally acclaimed for his fine art paintings and commercial illustration work for which he has garnered several renowned awards. This graduate of the New York School of Fine Arts rose to fame as a cover artist for DC Comics. Over the years Jean produced illustrations for clients such as Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, Atlantic Records, and Playboy.
In 2008, James Jean has stopped working on commercial illustration and turned his focus almost completely on painting. His instantly recognizable, mind-melting and gorgeous art of unique aesthetics shows an extremely talented and exceptionally skilled visual artist with a unique sense for highly sophisticated compositions.
Patcharapol Tangruen, better known as Alex Face, is a renowned street artist from Thailand, widely recognized for his instantly recognizable signature baby character found on walls of abandoned buildings in Bangkok and throughout the world. This seemingly cute baby, named Mardi and inspired by Alex Face's daughter, reveals artist's profound social conscience as it is actually always angry and constantly worried about the gray future of the world she sees through her third eye.
This iconic character dressed in a bunny outfit is a perfect example of the life-changing effect a newborn can have on an artist as he contemplates about the world he had brought the child into.
Haroshi is a renowned Japanese sculptor, self-taught woodworker and an avid skateboarder from Tokyo, widely known for his unique large sculptures made from used skateboard decks. Haroshi creates these extraordinary sculptures through a careful process consisting of several steps.
He first stacks selected skateboards together and then hand carves and polishes them into distinctive pop art sculptures which have a truly unique appearance of vibrant striped surfaces, due to the fact material is actually made of layers of processed wood. Haroshi usually avoids applying any additional dyes to his sculptures, but instead utilizes the original colors of used decks, and very often hides tiny objects inside them following the ancient tradition of Japanese sculptors.
A1one is a street artist from Tehran and the pioneer of graffiti art in Iran, recognized for his dynamic visual style which combines several different styles, most prominently Persian calligraphy and Western graffiti. When he started his street art career in 2003, he was the first artist to paint walls of his hometown, hence the name A1one (Alone). Suffice to say authorities were not happy with his actions.
A1one has been arrested several times but this did not stop him and he continued with his 'subversive' practice. More importantly, the virus of street art has spread across Tehran as A1one's art influenced several other street artists, such as Mogai, Isba and Elle, to pick up spray cans and follow his steps.
Highly prolific Chinese painter and sculptor DALeast is one of the most prominent street art figures of his country and, arguably, one of the biggest names on the international urban and graffiti art scene. His dark yet mesmerizing, highly intricate paintings can be found in urban landscapes of cities around the globe.
DALeast is famed for his skillful use of paint as he draws what appear to be thousands upon thousands of metal shards that beautifully come together to form seemingly living shapes of animals and humans. These fractured images, masterfully juxtaposed with contrasting backgrounds create captivating shadowing effects that infuse his soulful and energetic artworks with an overwhelming sense of life.
Hiroyasu Tsuri, better known by his artistic name Two-One is a Japanese street artist, painter and sculptor living and working in Collingwood, Australia. This educated visual artist gained an early interest in graffiti, but his artistic career sky-rocketed after he moved to Australia where he quickly became one of the most prominent figures of the Melbourne street art scene.
Two-One's instantly recognizable character paintings of unique aesthetics and metaphysical narratives have since been covering the walls worldwide, as he always leaves his marks in places he visits during his international travels. Recently Two-One, known for his numerous involvements in group exhibitions, gained a lot of attention for his beautifully crafted Erriadh village murals he painted for the Djerbahood murals project.