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Alya Hatta & Jiwon Cha

This is the world of Dungeons and Daydreams, spectacularly imagined and built by artists Alya Hatta and Ji Won Cha. Together, they will transport you through imagined and nostalgic worlds.

The pair’s first duo exhibition in the UK, Dungeons and Daydreams, features new works from Hatta and Cha, two London-based artists who share a passion for world building. Their combined works explore both the dichotomies that surround us, and a search for a natural harmony. Together, they invite visitors to contemplate the contradictions and tensions that exist within the natural world.

The exhibition title is a playful reference to the legendary fantasy tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. However, the artworks on display go beyond mere fantasy and delve into the art of creating worlds that fundamentally do not exist, yet are recognisable and nostalgic. Through their unique techniques and styles, Hatta and Cha explore the contradicting interfaces in life and seek solace and inspiration in nature. Nature is universal in its contradictions - equally adored and feared. Alya Hatta's paintings are a beautiful amalgamation of memories from different locations, depicting the diversity and complexity of the natural world. While Ji Won Cha's artworks are steeped in emotion, evoking a sense of melancholy and introspection.

Alya Hatta draws on experiences and memories to create worlds that experiment with form, colour, and space. Her works explore intimacies and the human condition, and draw inspiration from people and communities both near and far. Hatta’s works breathe in the space, creating alternate realities and new, safe spaces, celebrating her identity and the communities that she has encountered.

The largest of her works 100 Kilos Uphill, Hour One and Hour Two rest together in the exhibition, forming the basis of the five sculptures. Here, she depicts a struggling hike, examining the ground she steps on and the life that lives there. The work pulses from the wall with vibrancy and colour. Hatta pushes her mediums to their limits, resulting in works that are constantly revisiting memories and interactions. Plants appear throughout, including tropical plants from Malaysia, and garden varieties from London. Her recent trip to Spain inspired an exploration of microecologies, herbs, and weeds in her works. It was a welcome change from London, where she feels withdrawn from nature, since almost all nature is hindered and designed by humans.

Hatta’s sculptures are composed from a diversity of found materials; old clothes from Malaysia, bike chains and pearls, often found from the local communities in East Street Market, combined with paint. She has a close relationship with the Vendors, and enjoys their curation of materials, encouraging a community feeling to her practice. Though made by the artist’s hands, the folds of the sculptures appear organic, like specimens or ruptures of the earth’s crust. The works are held together through tension on the medium, mirroring the duality of the artist’s personality.

Both artists seek solace and inspiration in nature. Alya Hatta's memories of the natural and varied flora of Malaysia are beautifully portrayed in her paintings, capturing the essence of the country's rich biodiversity. Ji Won Cha, on the other hand, examines the over-curated, ornamental outdoors that is a byproduct of human intervention, seeking to understand the impact of human activity on the natural world.

Cha’s works examine the contradictions and tensions that exist within our natural world, using nature as a metaphor to portray conflicting feelings existing in the same space and time. Painting in an abstract language, her works combine broad inspiration from today’s social media to epic ancient folklore. Nature is used within the context of the work to provide an entry point to the viewer, with each work feels like a contradictory discovery. Cha’s works examine the constant adjusting and altering of the natural world by humankind - the over breeding for consumption, the intervening evolution of brighter, more attractive flowers, and the fabrication of landscaping.

These contradictions are clearly demonstrated through Fearless In My Heart I & II. These voluminous works have a seductive quality, inspired by ice glaciers falling down and meeting with a splash in the water in the artist’s iconic, glossy look. They communicate with each other, erupting and descending, pushing and pulling. These works are planned clearly, equally fluid in execution and carefully mapped.

Cha’s exhibited work includes Entangled. This work pervades our subconscious, reflecting themes of longing for something out of reach, with its precarious, leering and ominous hang. Voyeuristic. Unapproachable. It is an optic that holds a lot of class structures, with feelings of ‘a better life’, feeling far away to so many. Cha’s works contain a pure and persistent sense of prayer and wishing. When painting, the artist repeats titles and themes to herself, longing for the work to reveal. This potent sense of desire is prevalent through each painting - the dream and desire for something different.

The smaller oil on canvas works reflect poetically on a story from Cha’s childhood. Her parents described how flowers, such as the daffodil depicted, are at their most beautiful just before their death. This is why people pick them. The flowers here are glass - fragile, seducing, dangerous.

Together, Hatta and Cha’s works create an immersive experience that explores the relationships between emotion, memory and nature, inviting visitors to contemplate the contradictions and tensions that exist within the natural world. There is magic and mystery in their mastery.

This exhibition is a celebration of the art of world-building. Join us on this journey of introspection and exploration as we delve into the world of Dungeons and Daydreams.


17 March - 1 April 2023


Alya Hatta (b.1999, Malaysia) is an interdisciplinary artist based between London and Kuala Lumpur. She graduated from her BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London before finding herself in the MA Painting Course at Royal College of Art. She has exhibited internationally in London, Milan, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Tübingen and Sydney amongst others. Hatta is a member of London-based Southeast Asian artist group ‘Unamed Collective’.

Drawing on personal experiences and memories, Hatta uses the dynamism of colour, form, sound and space to explore the realm of digital and physical in representing her Southeast Asian identity, and to portray the colourful intimacies of the diasporic human condition. She takes inspiration from the communities of both her South-London and Kuala Lumpur residences as well as Southeast Asian mythology to create alternate realities in an attempt to find new spaces in which she can call home.

Ji Won Cha (b.1997, South Korea) graduated with a BFA Painting from Rhode Island School of Design in 2020 and is currently studying MA Painting at Royal College of Art. She has exhibited internationally in London and South Korea and her work has been acquired by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Cha paintings focus on re-articulating the sublime in the 21st century. Cha is interested in exploring ideas of mass anxiety on a collective scale, driven by macro reasons such as health concerns, natural disasters, war, etc. Her paintings focus on circumstances of not knowing and loss of control to depict this feelings defeat but
also with hope, using imageries that represent heightened senses of experiences. Dedicated to capturing the co-existence of contradicting feelings, her works find seduction in darkness, distress in beauty, and tranquility in chaos. It is about the anticipation for a future that is supposed to happen, but doesn’t materialise. These
futures collapse into the present and the future always remaining out of reach, to be idealized, anticipated, but forever uncertain. Cha expresses these feelings using the natural world as a metaphor, where nature exists as both a celebration of life and contemplation of fear; a subject of spiritual longing but also a subject of technical evolutionary development. The resultant paintings appear as flows of imagery from a seemingly unconscious mind.

Alya Hatta & Jiwon Cha
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