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Stella Lai’s graphical paintings examine Hong Kong’s bi-polar history

Stella Lai, Portrait of a Roast Pig, 2005, 30"x48", Gouache on Paper, Courtesy of the artist and Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

August 08, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - Stella Lai, the 30 year-old San Francisco artist born in Hong Kong whose paintings have been described as so precise they could pass for digital prints, is holding her first solo museum exhibition at the Arizona State University Art Museum. Stella Lai: Let's Stop Pretendingruns Sept. 1-Nov. 19 and opens with a public reception Aug. 30, 6-8 p.m.

Lai's exhibition of entirely new work is influenced by the current cultural environment of Hong Kong, which was returned to China in 1997 after 155 years as a British colony. Drawing upon her memories and knowledge of the architecture and language of Hong Kong, Lai has developed an installation of paintings that examine the city's bi-polar history and new status as a hyper-accelerated metropolis dominated by 21 st century consumption.

"Using a visual library of fragments of Hong Kong's history, I have created paintings that accurately reflect the city's present nervous condition," says Lai.

Curator John Spiak says Lai's work "at first glance appears simple and easy to define visually, yet on closer examination complex layers begin to emerge. She utilizes traditional Chinese elements such as landscapes, architecture, textiles and typography to make a statement about Hong Kong's marketing of cultural identity and perceived social norms of Asian women."

A recent Art in America review of Lai's work said it had a "graphic sensibility informed by anime and advertising," and that "behind the overall prettiness of Lai's Asian-flavored imagery, there's often a feeling of melancholy or menace."

Lai received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts and is currently in residency at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, UK. She recently exhibited her work at galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego and San Jose and received favorable reviews.

Stella Lai: Let's Stop Pretending is one of three contemporary Asian art exhibitions that opens the ASU Art Museum's fall season with a reception for members and invited guests, Oct. 8, 7-9 p.m. Others include Akio Takamori: Between Clouds of Memory , Sept. 9 - Jan. 16, a mid-career survey of contemporary ceramic sculpture and graphic art by the inventive Japanese artist who lives in Seattle; and Regeneration Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the U.S., Sept. 24 - Dec. 23, a national touring exhibition of 50-plus artworks by 26 artists, organized by the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University.

The ASU Art Museum is part of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University and is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10 th Street in Tempe. Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Tuesdays and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information regarding artists' lectures, workshops and special events in conjunction with the three Asian exhibitions, call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay