Kien Situ 司徒建 (b. 1990, Sydney)

My work is a meditation on memory, cultural amnesia and identity in relation to the aesthetics of constructed objects and environments. Drawing upon familiar spatial, formal, textural, tectonic and material experiences from my East Asian upbringing, I am utilising and dissecting my Eurocentric architectural education to create objects which reinterpret formative aesthetic and sensory experiences obfuscated by diasporic Chinese-Vietnamese (my father is half-Kinh Vietnamese) childhood. My works are a physical merging of these experiences and draw upon material narrative; mixing the scientific processes of casting a global, industrial material (gypsum cement) with the regional, ‘artistic’ material impulses of Chinese Mò Ink. All my works created share the same title; Shanshui (山水); as they are all of the same material composition and form individual parts of a greater as-yet unseen whole.

Shanshui refers to the traditional style of Chinese ink and brush landscape painting, literally translating to “mountain- water-picture”, which rose to prominence during the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Prominently depicting mountains, rivers and waterfalls, the intent of shanshui was not to perfectly recreate nature in a formal sense but to capture an awareness of the artist’s inner reality through the artistic exploration of a vast and unconquerable nature.

The mineral origins of Chinese inks were discussed by scholar Xu Shen, dissecting 墨 (‘ink’) as composed of the characters for ‘black’ (黑) and ‘soil’ (土), due to the earthly origins of the dark mineral used in its production. Employing this material is instrumental to my practice as an investigation of the symbiotic relationship between geography, place and identity and how this is disrupted.

All the spatial parameters of my work correspond to ratios defined by the numbers 8 and 4, both numbers of significance in Asian culture as numbers homophonically denoting fortune or misfortune. They are my re-interpretation of the Western ‘Golden Ratios’ and are a compulsion I have inherited as my parents obsessively adhered to these superstitions (We grew up in a house numbered ‘8’).

Despite all appearances, they are all created additively; that is; without any ‘subtraction’ from an existing piece and without post-

production. Even pieces created in the same molds with the same spatial parameters are uniquely different as petrified moments where the infinite potential of liquid states fast becomes solid. ‘Watermarks’ are found on the surfaces of my sculptures, softly suggesting this. They are inversions on the idea of a ruin; rather, they are ‘incomplete images’ or questions, waiting to be completed by the viewer.


Solo Exhibitions

Holding Patterns Part I: Kien Situ

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art


山水 Shanshui: Diaspora Landscapes

Wedge Gallery


Exhibiton Designer

Pat Larter, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (In Progress)


Joy, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (In Progress)


Shadow Catchers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney



Dora Ohlfsen, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


Here We Are, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


A Small Exhibition with Panovscott Architects, Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney