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Unspoken Incantation 4 by Mao ( Kun ) Chen 陈昆

Unspoken Incantation

A Solo Exhibition by Mao ( Kun ) Chen 陈昆

Created in partnership with Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI)

Exhibition Date

June 25 – September 10, 2021



ASA Gallery: Mezzanine

222 – 1235 26 AVE SE,

Calgary, AB T2G 1R7 – Map


Hours of Operation (Summer)

Fridays and Saturdays, 10am – 4pm


Kawaii is a subculture centered on “cuteness” in East Asia. It is a form of self-expression primarily constructed by young women. It celebrates universal personality traits (not limited to age, gender, race), through sweet, adorable, gentle and lovable, while simultaneously acting as a strong stand against patriarchal hegemony. Kawaii aesthetics are represented through inner energy, with soft, simple, cute and non-gendered presentation to create a fantasy world that is detached from the patriarchal hegemony. By contrast, some outsiders interpret Kawaii mannerisms and Kawaii feminism as a means to appeal to the male gaze. In this case, feminist signifiers are dismissed and devalued.

Through my art practice I aim to present an embodiment of Kawaii feminine signifiers in the images and objects. Through an exploration of cultural context and personal experiences, I investigate the positive potential of Kawaii as a tool for empowerment. It is a motif that represents non-gendered, freedom and empowerment. Furthermore, the work offers a new insight into Kawaii culture to North American viewers.


Mao (Kun) Chen’s works explore themes of socio-cultural identity, female representation, and gender politics associated with growing up in a male-dominated society in China. Broadly inspired by both Eastern and Western histories of art – ranging from East Asian calligraphy to Expressionism, Mao’s personal vision of identity and gender transcends the traditional constructed notions, complicating stereotypes, and positions it within a new aesthetic reality. The underlying component of Mao’s latest creative research focuses on fictional portrait as a vehicle to explore notions of hybrid identity and individuality. The recent ceramic works seek to explore the hybridization and fluidity of her identity as an immigrant to Canada through explorations of cultural form, symbol, and color.


A recent Master of Fine Art graduate from the University of Calgary, Mao also holds a BFA from The University of Alberta and has exhibited her work in the United Kingdom, China and at numerous galleries in Alberta.