Ancestors, 2021.
Lucky Cat, 2021.

‘Ancestors’ (2021) is a New Media art that depicts multiple images of the Jing, an icon in Chinese Opera, stroking his beard, gazing down at the viewer. Jing's representation in Chinese Opera varies, depending on colours, makeup and performance, but generally represents a male figure of great power or passion. As a symbol of machismo, the Jing is used to represent patriarchy and the muddled and transforming standards of masculinity in Asian culture, especially against a Western perspective. James as a queer identifying male, explores questions of feminine and masculine presentation throughout his works relating to Chinese Opera. The artwork itself depicts the overwhelming propaganda of the ‘manly male’, the artwork’s composition and title: ‘Ancestors’, depict the cultural significance of maintaining traditional views of masculinity out of fear and conformity. James does present the illusion of masculinity, the role of the Jing exists only for performance and voyeurism, lack of colour in the approaching negative space indicates fragility and ultimately, the arbitrary expectations.

‘Lucky Cat’ (2021) is a New Media work by James Teng that uses the kitsch symbol of the maneki-neko to criticise mass marketing and the empty promises of fortune. ‘Lucky cat’ is an overwhelming rainbow of lucky cats repeated across the canvas. The cats vary in size and scale, some are even bitmapped to resemble shadows, however all are of the same motif. ‘Lucky Cat’ uses kitsch to it’s carnivalesque imagery, combining Western stereotypes of Asian iconography and themes with nuanced criticism of Chinese culture. The lucky cat symbol is a pun on the Western icon of the ‘fat cat’, representing capitalism and wealth through the hard work of the lower class. James explores the cultural obsession with wealth and fortune existing in both cultures he experienced. He jests the belief that fortune can be ‘bought’ through mass-produced lucky charms that only bring wealth towards the supplier, hidden behind the racks of waving cats. The colours reference the neon signage present in Chinatowns and Casinos, demanding and competing for the viewer’s attention, ultimately beckoning towards nothing substantial or meaningful.
James Teng
Instagram @alienjdesigns

James Teng is a University of New South Wales alumni, graduating Bachelor of Design in 2021. He is a multi-disciplinary artist and designer whose agitprop posters reference Western and Asian pop culture. Born in Australia and raised by a traditional Chinese family, his art explores folklore and Chinese pop culture, often stories or iconography that would be scattered around the house. His family was born in Tianjin, one of the proud home-bases of Chinese Opera. Having been exposed to the theatrical styles and legends through Chinese Opera since he was a child, the bold colours and storytelling have been a key influence in his artmaking. James’s style draws upon nostalgia, culture and agitprop resulting in manic, saturated and large-scale works.

James works in New Media art, incorporating hand-drawn motifs, manipulating and composing them through CAD. Relating mass marketing and pop culture’s consumption to propaganda media, repetition and multimedia is vital to his artmaking practice. The colourful posters function as distracting false fronts oftentimes diverting the more cynical criticisms the artist has towards pop culture and traditional values. James also works within textiles and fashion design, often using his artwork as prints to add to his repetitious elements. His fascination with the unisex forms of east-asian fashion inspires his garment design.

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