Fantasy Meets Photography In The Striking Images of Zhang Jingna

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Sometimes it seems that the more successful one is as a professional artist, the more important personal projects become. Such is the case for photographer Zhang Jingna who has partnered with video concept artist Tobias Kwan and several guest artists for the project “Motherland Chronicles.” A weekly project, the series of 52 images has recently been completed.

“It’s an exploration of sort. An attempt at putting together elements and themes I’ve loved since I was a child. It has a bit of a don’t-want-to-forget-my-childhood-dreams sort of thing going on; since I’ve been working for almost 7 years now, I don’t want to lose track of who I am, but it’s easy to as you grow and do too much commercial stuff, you know? So it goes back a lot more to my creative roots, more illustrative and painterly, like artworks that inspired me to create. Loosely linked together with hints of dark fantasy.” (Source)

The themes for the series developed organically. As the weeks progressed, the fantasy element became pronounced, colored with Jingna’s affinity for manga, Japanese rock, and fashion. The artists’ whose work she was inspired by includes Antoon van Welie, Suemi Jun, George Frederic Watts, and Yoshitaka Amano, and their illustrative influence can be seen in the work, particularly in the even light. Each image takes between 5–7 hours and a team of 5–6 people to complete. In her fascinating blog she writes about the process of beginning a personal project, using “Motherland Chronicles” as an example, and gives excellent, step-by-step instructions on what to consider and which pitfalls to avoid.

“Pictures always start from a single point; it could be an item, a piece of jewellery or even just a vague idea for a concept. Say I want to do a shoot with firs, I’ll ask myself questions such as: what kind of environment am I creating? What types of fire can I make? How does my character interact with it? What type of character does that? At the same time I do research on art, costumes, culture and sometimes also myths and legends.” (Source)

Jingna and Kwan hope to have a book for “Motherland Chronicles” completed and ready for sale in early 2015. (Via Juxtapoz)

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How A T-shirt By OMOCAT Made Us Question Sex And Controversy In Art

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What’s in a word?  That’s what the prolific and internationally known Asian-American artist Omocat has been faced with lately.  In the midst of her recent “shota” t-shirt release (pictured here), the artist’s intentions have in instances been taken widely out of context.  Embraced by Japanese fans that understand the context, some others have used it as a brutal platform for Western backlash.  In this instance something got lost in translation between hemispheres, and it is increasingly important that we explore the context and origin of the Japanese word shota and, above all, what this illustrates about western views on sexuality and gender.

Omocat’s continuum of work includes illustration, comic-books, clothing and merch with her designs.  Her imagery and content is often based on shota (which loosely translates to mean “pretty boy”) or loli (an expansive style and sometimes fetish originating in Nabakov’s Lolita). All of these artistic expressions stem from Otaku, an umbrella term for the Japanese manga-centric subculture that also informs the work of artist Takashi Murakami.   It is important to note that Omocat is quite vocal and literal within the work on her feelings towards social justice and self-empowerment in gender and sexual identity, with a strong personal stance against bullying.  This is illustrated fully in her comic “Pretty Boy,” featured here.   Omocat is even working on a collaborative artistic effort against bullying set to launch later this fall.

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Japanese Artist Daisuke Ichiba’s Intricate Drawings Interweave The Disturbing And The Grotesque

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Life is an inextricable combination of beauty and awfulness, good and evil, and Japanese artist Daisuke Ichiba captures these dichotomies in his highly detailed, densely populated drawings. Drawing is just one of the media that Ichiba has mastered — he is also a painter, filmmaker, and photographer. No matter the form, though, his content grapples with the reality of life and its grotesqueries.

“Choosing to create work that is only beautiful feels artificial. Thus I paint both. You cannot sever the two. The expression that results is a natural chaos. In my work I project chaos, anarchy, anxiety, the grotesque, the absurd, and the irrational. By doing so I attain harmony. This is my art. Put simply, I paint humanity (the spirit).”

At first glance it’s possible to miss the disturbing elements of Ichiba’s work. The Indian ink compositions are dense and unusual for Japanese art, which tends toward clean lines and minimalism, although they do include Japanese iconography such as the schoolgirl and cherry blossoms. Influenced by his early admiration of comic book art and manga as well as the loss of his mother at age 8, his works fuse vile, often many-eyed, monsters into domestic scenes. Figures are missing features—an eye here, a mouth there—and the occasional introduction of color feels threatening, reminiscent of spreading blood.

He meditates on sexuality and death and the intangible cord that ties them together. Ichiba’s haunting tableaus are a type of contemporary shunga (Edo-period erotic scrolls), in which beauty navigates chaos with one eye closed. (Source)

The impassivity of the deformed figures is striking in the work. Both human and monster accept their fates. The faceless children and severed heads represent the darkness in all of us, ubiquitous and unquestioned.

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John Chae’s New Levels, Video-Games and Otherwise

New Levels, the title of John Chae‘s new series of work, captures its dual nature succinctly.  While the phrase New Levels may partly refer to higher levels of perception or consciousness, you may likely have had the same first impression as I did: video games.  Chae’s paintings use both elements of fine art history and throw-away pop culture imagery – he visually cites Magritte and Escher alongside manga artists.  Chae moves beyond the highbrow/lowbrow juxtaposition of our pop-art grandparents.  Rather, his paintings are for and from a generation that doesn’t consume images as much as it puts them to use as a recyclable tool of self-expression.

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Keisuke Tanaka Hand Carved Mountain Sculptures

Although references to animation and manga can be found in the large sculptures of Japanese artist Keisuke Tanaka, the artist’s main themes revolve around life and death, as he considers one of his main motifs, mountains,  to be a magical place where life begins and ultimately ends. Each hand carved sculpture is built out of solid wood with so many miniature details so that we may get a sense of the view that the gods might have of the imaginative world of Tanaka.

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JONNY NEGRON – NSFW

This Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for the delicious imagery of “the master of voluptuousness” Jonny Negron. Not since Tom of Finland have I witnessed this caliber of graphic plumpness, and once your eyes fall upon these beauties you’ll be hooked. I really wish those two dudes could collaborate, unfortunately Tom of Finland is dead, but luckily, Negron and Jesse Balmer collaborate often, yielding plenty of awesome finishes. You can catch both of these men in CHAMELEON and DEMON GOD GOBLIN HEAVEN, and after that check out Jonny while he flicks, tumbles, and sells wonderful shit at these hyperlinks. Do enjoy.

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Yan Wei’s Nursery of the Netherworld

Yan Wei is a Beijing-based artist with a style reminiscent of horror manga illustrators like Hideshi Hino, yet very much her own.   Her ink portraits of children belong to a vision of Hell far more unnerving than any blunt pit of fire. 

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YUICHI YOKOYAMA

 

I have never heard anyone utter a word of dislike towards Yuichi Yokoyama‘s work, and for good reason. Personally, I have never come across a comic artist this flawless and complete. His style is immediately recognizable, but never tedious, and his works are as spectacular as Hollywood action films, yet they can be about visiting a garden, traveling on a train, or building strange forms of shelter. He reinvigorated my interest in comics, and I hope he can do the same for you (if needed).

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