Fay Ku


Born in Taiwan, and raised as an outsider in a series of small American towns, Ku invokes both Eastern and Western traditions in her drawings, which combine remarkably smooth draftsmanship and meticulous detail with idiosyncratic,discomforting ideas.

Ku’s work is inspired, as she puts it, by the negative “residues” of human culture,such as violence and social failures. Her inspirations are many—from the morbid Chinese folk tales she heard as a child to the films she sees and the literature she reads—but her art is inspired by the things that stick with her,whether she wants them to or not. “It’s similar to when you touch something sticky, and you don’t know what it is, but you can feel it on your hand all day,” Ku says.

Her works are enigmatic, dreamlike and occasionally zoomorphic. While her figures have aged and changed as she has, most of her established body of work shows female figures, often children, locked into combat.

In Room For One, a girl in a boat stabs at submerged swimmers with a sharp pick; in Curse,in Ostrich Hunt, three young children try to drag down a bird; while in Tiger Girls, half-human figures snarl and fight.

Despite the inherent strife, Ku’s figures remain austere, showing no emotion as they act out brutal allegories of human socialization.

“I think I started off with children because I needed them to be sympathetic,” Ku says. “I didn’t want to shock people away from the darker side of human nature.”

Ku’s drawings recall the callousness and lack of empathy of children, who have not yet learned the customs and niceties adults use to mask society’s true savagery.

“We’re not that much evolved when we become grownups,” Ku says. “We have the veneer of being socialized, but all those tendencies and emotions are barely under the surface.”

Similarly,Ku’s art often manages to be simultaneously macabre and whimsical; delightfully wicked, if one will. She also contrasts her dark subject matter with elegant patterns and her detailed figures with expansive white space.

Ku received an M.F.A. from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and a dual B.A. in literature and visual arts from Bennington College in Vermont. She has had at least six solo exhibitions since 2005, during which time her work has been included in nearly 20 group shows. Ku has received numerous residencies and awards, which include extended residencies at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Santa Fe Art Institute and the VAN Artist Residency, as well as the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant and the A.I.R. Emerging Artist Fellowship.