Zoe Sijia Guo: Cultural Chaos: Navigating the World of the Outsiders

Sijia Guo 思嘉 郭 (b.1996), also known as Zoe, is a visual artist based in London. Her background in sociology and illustration, combined with her experiences of growing up in China and Japan, inform the multi-layered subject matter of her work. She employs a variety of media including sculpture and print, to create symbolic associations in her art. Her focus is on marginalised individuals and the themes of nostalgic childhood fantasy and the subconscious, which serve as a form of escapism and resistance to consumerism and societal expectations. Through the use of vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery, she aims to depict the struggles and triumphs of outsiders and inspire empathy and understanding through her art.

The small house gallery serves as a refuge, reflecting my experiences as an outsider. My first encounter with cultural suppression was in London, where my landlord forbade my Chinese roommate and I from speaking our native language in the house due to his child’s discomfort with the unfamiliar language. This highlights the wider issue of cultural suppression and restriction of cultural expression that can lead to feelings of disorientation and a sense of not fully belonging, as reflected in my childhood experience of being discouraged from speaking Shanghaiese at school and facing similar cultural challenges in places like Tokyo and London. Through my visual art, I delve into these complexities, showcasing the journey from disorientation to comfort and acceptance of a multifaceted cultural identity. My use of bright colors, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery offer a window into the perspectives of outsiders and challenges traditional ideas about cultural identity.

‘Outsiders’ visited the Basement Annex of Small House Two for a day in early May…

All photos by 思嘉 郭 Zoe Sijia Guo

This art project explores the experiences of outsiders through a collection of artworks that incorporate various materials such as wool, wire, and yarn to convey their perspectives and struggles. The first stage represents the chaos and confusion that arises from attempting to understand one’s place in multiple cultures. The second stage depicts the process of becoming comfortable in a new culture, but still feeling the tension of not fully belonging. The final stage shows the embracing of the complexities and messiness of our identities, and learning to be comfortable in multiple “worlds”. Through this process, She hopes to inspire viewers to appreciate and love the people around them for their differences. The artist uses a vibrant palette, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery to challenge the arrogant perceptions often held towards these outsiders.She employs a three-stage process to represent the different facets of being an outsider. Through this process, She hopes to inspire viewers to appreciate and love the people around them for their differences.

As a child, I was discouraged from speaking Shanghaiese at school by the education authority, who instead encouraged me to speak Mandarin. This experience of being discouraged from expressing my cultural identity has been repeated in other parts of the world, such as Tokyo and London, where my appearance has led to assumptions about my cultural background, resulting in a sense of cultural disorientation. I am aware of both cultures, but not fully accepted by either.

Artwork list:

Cultural Chaos: Navigating the World of Outsiders – 1
Medium: Wool, wires, latex bouclette vulcanised
Year: 2022
Size: 3.5×4.8 cm

Cultural Chaos: Navigating the World of Outsiders – 2
Medium: Wool, wires, yarn latex bouclette vulcanised
Year: 2023
Size: 4×3 cm

An Outsider
Medium: earthenware
Year: 2023
Size: 3×5 cm

Zoe is graduating from the Royal College of Art this summer (2023). We are looking forward to her degree show!


2021-23 Royal College of Arts
MA Visual Communication

Jan – Nov 2020 University of the Arts London
BA Illustration
Scholarship Exchange Student (from Kyoto Seika University)

2019 Limerick University
International Summer Programme

2018-21 Kyoto Seika University
BA Illustration
(Book Design)

2017-18 Tama Art University
Programme Exchange Student

2016-18 Nihon University
BA Journalism
(Media and Communications)

Sijia-Zoe is Trilingual – she is native in both Mandarin and Japanese, fl and English (fluent) French: intermediate (speaking)

Selected Exhibitions:
“Room” Kyoto, Shijo Japan 2020
”South London Lab” Peckham Town Centre Park London 2020
“Genz” (online) London 2020
“PICKS” Kyoto 2021
Selected for One Pound Super Short Film festival UK 2022
Selected for The XP Awards UK 2022
“Genz” (online) London 2022
Participatory Ocean-Sensitive Design London 2022 (Funded by the British Academy)
Southwark Park Gallery Annual Open Exhibition (2022)
Broken Englizh x 3rdwrld Sold Out Publishing London UK (2022)

Portfolio: https://issuu.com/zoe_xi722/docs/_-_a504202bd47879

Instagram: @gsj_zoe


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: