Yuhao Chen questions tradition with his authoritative and distorting designs

Become immersed in the London-based designer’s world of 3D structures and print.

31 July 2023

For Yuhao Chen, graphic design is an art that he sees as particularly liberal, for it allows him to engage with contemporary society, culture and phenomena. Growing up in China, born in the throes of the country’s one-child policy, he often felt “greater attention and expectations from my parents”. He adds: “My family adhered to a hierarchical power structure that troubled me, I sometimes even felt oppressed by their authority, especially because I don’t fit into the traditional gender roles and masculinity.” In his final degree project The Filial Finale, he explores the link between the filial piety – virtues and respect for one’s parents widely observed in Chinese culture – and the body.

Within the project, there is also a striking 3D structure of bodies intertwined, with hands and legs coming to the fore. It’s a wonder why their faces are hidden, but at a closer look it's a powerful visual representation of Yuhao’s themes. “I exaggerated the figures seen in The New Twenty-Four Filial Exemplars [paintings of a child bowing down to their parents that have been made to represent the classic text by Guo Jujing of the same name],” he tells us. By isolating the figures from the historical painting, and replicating and distorting their bodily structure 24 times, the weight and strain of parental obedience and doing away with individuality becomes evermore clear.


Yuhao Chen: The Filial Finale (Copyright © Yuhao Chen, 2023)

While constructing his argument for the project, Yuhao struggled with toeing the line between his own narrative and one that was more generic. “In the end I chose to connect to my personal experience, while maintaining a connection with a wider audience,” he tells us. Finding this balance, Yuhao is clear that the concept of filial piety doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is rooted in something we can all relate to. “It has been a ruling ideology in Chinese politics, society and culture since the Han Dynasty, but it’s not only motivated by the moral obligation of caring for your parents at old age, it serves a strong patriarchal purpose.”

With all the referencing, distorting and remodelling that makes up his work, Yuhao has communicated a system so intrinsic to his childhood with visual finesse. “I want to advocate for a new culture of filial piety, with guidelines that establish a spiritual foundation and expose the immorality of what the patriarchy has done to it.” And with two equally personal projects in the pipeline – one with a stronger focus on the patriarchy and another on masculinity – he longs to continue showing us how a true designer integrates all that is personal and relatable.

GalleryYuhao Chen: The Filial Finale (Copyright © Yuhao Chen, 2023)

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Yuhao Chen: The Filial Finale (Copyright © Yuhao Chen, 2023)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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