Howie Tsui

From swelling shadows, we draw our bows

The Power Plant presents Howie Tsui's first institutional solo show in Toronto.


The Power Plant presents Vancouver-based artist Howie Tsui’s first institutional solo exhibition in Toronto. Growing up between Hong Kong, Lagos, and Thunder Bay, Tsui has described his childhood and adolescence as existing between Chinese and Colonial cultures. In his artworks, he blends classical and contemporary Chinese art, particularly wuxia—a popular martial arts genre advocating for resistance against oppressors that emerged in China during the mid-20th century—with Western popular culture to examine the complexities of the diasporic experience and question official Chinese culture.

From swelling shadows, we draw our bows takes as its starting point Tsui’s Retainers of Anarchy (2017), a five-channel algorithmic animation comprised of hundreds of hand-painted ink drawings of wuxia-style characters. This seminal work was created as a response to the animated scroll River of Wisdom (2010), a Chinese government-sanctioned version of a famous Song Dynasty painting. Exhibited at the 2010 Expo Shanghai China, River of Wisdom’s idyllic marketplace setting negated decades of state-sponsored oppression and civil unrest, particularly recently in Hong Kong. Tsui’s animation is set, instead, in the Kowloon Walled City (1898–1994)—a tenement once situated on the fringes of British-occupied Hong Kong that housed at least 33,000 people on its 2.6-hectare footprint, though unofficial estimates suggest closer to 50,000 inhabitants.

The single-channel animation Parallax Chambers (2018-ongoing) features many of the same characters as Retainers of Anarchy, but emanates a much more claustrophobic feeling. Both animations are accompanied by site-specific frescos in the Clerestory. These automatic drawings are made as the artist’s hand moves randomly across walls, conjuring ephemeral, ghost-like images.

Tsui’s version of Hong Kong is, at times, nightmarish, full of violence and permeated with a sense of hopelessness as the characters struggle to survive the horrors that befall them. But in the shadows—liminal spaces, like the Kowloon Walled City, or as members of the diaspora shift between cultures—exist the tools to fight against injustice, untruths, and fear.

Click here for an extended curatorial statement.

Howie Tsui (Tsui Ho Yan / 徐浩恩, b. 1978 in Hong Kong and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and Thunder Bay) currently lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. Recent solo exhibitions include the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida (2020); Burrard Arts Foundation, Vancouver (2020); Ottawa Art Gallery (2019); OCAT Museum, Xi’an, China (2018); and Vancouver Art Gallery (2017). Select Group exhibitions include the Asian Art Fair, Paris (2019); Ottawa Art Gallery (2018); Art Labor, Shanghai (2015); Dalhousie Art Gallery, Nova Scotia (2015); Para Site, Hong Kong (2014); and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2014). Tsui received Canada Council's Joseph Stauffer Prize in 2005 and was long-listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2018. He holds a BFA (2002) from the University of Waterloo. 


In Conversation: Howie Tsui with Rhiannon Vogl
Monday, 21 September 2020, 6 PM

Sunday Scene: Jason Li
Sunday, 4 October 2020, 2 PM

Power Kids: PK Comics - Cultivating Heroes
Sunday, 4 October 2020

Writing Workshop with Toronto Writers Collective
Wednesday, 11 November 2020, 2 PM

Power Kids: Fast Forward
Sunday, 22 November 2020

Field Trip: Howie Tsui in conversation with Greg Girard
Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Sunday Scene: Jing Jing Chang
Sunday, 6 December 2020, 2 PM