the evolution of the little god
Human life and emotion is a floppy, jalopy subject matter that the visual artist repeatedly attempts to control by line, texture and tone. The evolution/revolution of visual art starts and ends with each artist who makes their life about that miniature reality that is the canvas or media.
And how will the visual artist control this reality? With tyranny, anarchy or something in between? Will the subject rule the artist or will the artist rule the subject?
Lai Chung Poon is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who plays between the polar opposites of control and passion.
“My work has to be pretty tightly constructed but with enough rawness to show its natural character,” she says of herself. “My concepts are always different, but my hand or my lines are always controlled.”
Good examples of this duality can be found in her online samples. Her visual work tends to favour black ink on white paper with the infrequent exception of one colour: red.
These stark contrasts bold and blunt the lines and expressions in Lai Chung Poon’s often voluptuous and surreal characters and images.
This strict control is counter-balanced by Lai Chung Poon’s personal and somewhat extreme content. The use of condensed imagery on this white, neutral surface reads like visual stories, riddles and Tarot Cards.
“Most important is my passion to create art and get better at it. I have the drive to make things so I will always make art for almost any reason. I am usually more successful when I keep my work personal. I eat up all the information around me and produce art from it. Sometimes I tell autobiographical stories, such as the Origami Novel, but other times, I get inspiration from very basic things such as a tree, rubber, animals, technology and love. Even if I have a message, the viewers will always decide for themselves.”
And when she decides to spin these images into animation? We become participants in making black ink portray human life.
“I am asking the viewers to see beyond the subject,” she explains. “The content is the key. For example, in Animals from A to Z, the subjects are: Asian young girl, animal costumes, animation. The contents are: transformation, the act of staring, the alphabet, loops….etc. I set up a system with my concept and rules and then my subjects exist in that world.”
“Making work is about balancing control and what comes naturally,” she continues. “There are many times when I create works that are too controlled. In reaction, my next piece will usually come from the gut. Artists have to make rules. It can be as simple as thick lines over thin lines or red always goes on top of green.”
On animation, she says, “After creating my first animation Anger, I was addicted to the energy and power of traditional animation. I continued to experiment with all aspects of drawing including illustration, animation, installation and book making. They are all
elements that I still use today. In addition, I explore the realm of dance, performance, installation and video art.”
“I admire the painful and laborious process - the more the better,” she continues.
"Traditionally, drawn animation is a painful process. I am proud when I create an animated thing. The drawings become alive in a different world that I can't touch, but can observe. I believe that the body only exists in tension and making animations that revolve around that idea makes me feel like a little god.”
A good example of a raw human subject matter that Lai Chung Poon has portrayed in her past work is feminine sexuality.
“Ever since I learned how to draw a woman, I spent most of my time designing her character in a way that I fantasized to be. I draw my character to reflect on how I feel in the most honest way, as a creator. I love the attention that she gets when I animate my character, which is hard to admit, but I love the attention. Erotica is always warm, but there are other artists out there who make art about how cold sexuality can be in this contemporary world.”
“The only purposefully erotic animation that I made is "Queens of Hearts", which is an obvious porno that I wanted to make to feel good. There are other projects that I worked on that are erotic-looking because my character is nude or wearing scandalous costumes but I was not focusing on the "erotica" when I was creating it. The sexual energy of these pieces comes from me being kind of crazy.”
“Now that I am older, the attention that I want is different, the older works only reflect the way that I was.”
Is Lai Chung Poon a feminist? “I can't tell if I am a feminist. I make work based on personal feelings and use the female figure to say it. I enjoy the power a female receives with sexual energy, but I am equally interested in making work without the candy of sex. Two feminist-ish pieces are the "Tree Project", which is a tribute for mothers, who plant themselves down to build a future for their offspring. The other is the "Rubber Project", which relates to a woman's flexibility to do anything she wants.”
Artists, in any field, are often met with the challenges of ego and self-awareness. We make ourselves little gods over our works but the breadth of that power is determined by our ability to evolve with not only our subjects but ourselves.
Lai Chung Poon says, “Once I learned to look at art, I learned to look at life. My goal is to get better at looking, so I can be a better person at giving.”