A-Lei

Monsters, misunderstood.

YehHsin-Hong, known as A-Lei (he/him), was born in 1976 in Taiwan, where he continues to live and work.

Did you know?

The name A-Lei comes from the Japanese word ‘あれ,’ meaning ‘that is.’ This sentiment taps into the fact that the artist sees his work as observational – a direct translation of all that is around him.

Inspirations

As a child, A-Lei had a passion for animatronics. This continues to inform his practice today. Each of his works is a bit like a toy, a unique character which is part of a wider, imaginary plot: his practice. In addition, the sepia tones of his work are inspired by the metropolis of his home, Taiwan.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

A-Lei channels one key idea into his pottery – monsters aren't scary, just misunderstood. Animals and beasts become single figures, while objects like radios have human features. The sculptures range in scale from small to medium-sized, with some larger bronzes. A-Lei's process is intricate and meticulous. He starts by sketching in his notebook and sometimes on paper with ink. Then, he sculpts the figures with clay organically – i.e. they're not exact replicas of the drawings. Glazes are next. They cover a huge range of colours which he has samples of neatly organised in his studio. Then the sculptures are put in the kiln to fire. The outcome is often unpredictable – creating happy accidents along the way. Finishing touches are added at the end. Various tools scratch into the surface, and he even uses a blow torch.

Contradictions come up throughout A-Lei’s ceramics. The works are made from clay, but often look like wood and they show non-human figures as deeply human. The sculptures look ancient and mythical, but also modern-day. They mix old and new influences, from modernist painter Egon Shiel to manga and anime. Plus, humans and machines meld together. Just want to fly (2019), for example, is a personified aeroplane with its wings open for a hug. Above all, the sculptures depict ‘ugly’ and grotesque beings, but they're cute. This is the core of A-Lei's practice – bringing empathy and care to those who are overlooked and neglected.