The Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok is known as “the” place to make avid shoppers’ hearts skip a beat. When rumour had it that MCM was about to open an installation about a new bag line, it seemed like nothing out of the ordinary at first sight. However, the temporary installation in this shopping temple turned out to be an introduction to me to the works of an extraordinary artist: Eddie Kang‘s colourful “Loveless” theme was captivating everyone who entered the mall.
I was very intrigued by Eddie’s works and did some research online. And after tagging him in one of my Instagram stories, we started a conversation and he agreed to give me an interview. I was very excited to get the chance to ask him about his “Animanix” style, the role of his dog as a source of inspiration and what he thinks about the commercialisation of art.
How did your life between the US and Asia affect your artistic development? Why did you choose to study abroad instead of Korea?
I have always wanted to study art in US where two of my biggest idols are from. Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I began my US life from prep school in Pennsylvania. It was located at the rural part and there, I learned how to use emotional elements such as loneliness and longing as motivations to create positive works.
How did you end up with the “Animanix” style?
I have been always using my current style. Even from when I was very young. It all began with doodles. Free handed, free minded doodles of my toys and pets. Then I met infamous Taiwanese curator Victoria Lu in 2008. She is the one who came up with the term “Animamix” (animation+comics) and began promoting my works at shows and biennials she curated.
I read on artsy and the Bangkok Post that you find “inspiration and solace in childhood memories”. What are these childhood memories? Are they mainly the memories of your dog?
Good memories in general. My puppy does have a special place in my heart. But I have other good memories that bring smile out of me.
How did you come up with “Loveless” (note: the dog motif which now also found its place on MCM bags)?
It was name of my puppy (RIP). He was badly abused and about to be abandoned by his former master. So my family adapted him. Due to all those abuse, he was always grumpy. That is why I named him Loveless.
Why do you choose bright colours in your works? Do they also stand for a “happy place”?
Colors are like emotions to me. I have always wanted to convey positive messages through my works. So I try to think about good, happy memories before I work and apply that emotion to my colors.
You paint but you also work on 3D objects – why do you focus on different art types?
I believe many artists want to experiment and explore to search new creative methods. I am one of them. And to me, it was in form of 3D sculptures. I have always had a strong interest in public art which can be enjoyed and experienced by a broad group of people.
Why did you decide to partner with MCM?
MCM is a well-established brand with lots of fans and platforms. When I first got contact from the company, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to show my works to bigger group of audineces. So I agreed to the collaboration.
How does it feel that your works can be carried around by women on a daily basis?
My works have been shown mostly in galleries, museums, and fairs. Many audiences there but still limited. Being shown through ‘everyday accessories’ will allow more audiences to see my patterns and images naturally from their daily lives. It is like dreams come true. It feels special.
Do you think a lot of the customers love your designs on the bags and as a consequence occupy themselves with your art?
It seems to be working in both ways so far. Some audiences recognize the collaboration because they already know my works. Then, there are audiences who become more curious about my works after seeing my MCM products.
A lot of artists worry that commercializing their art might damage their reputation as a “serious” artist. What is your point of view on that?
I believe well-balanced commercialization can bring lots of positive effects on artists. And, a commercial approach can be an efficient way to communicate with audiences. I personally think ‘serious’ art comes from communications. For me, this collaboration was another way of communicating.
What are the main challenges young artists face today?
Trends and social network services. It is a double-edged sword: if a young artists can use trends and social network services well while maintaining their originalities, it can be very beneficial to them.
How important have social media become for you to promote your art?
So far, it has been fun. It surely helps me to communicate with new audiences. However, I try to use it just enough to enjoy it.
What are you currently working on / what are your next big projects?
I am currently working on my next shows in NYC and Shanghai. Both happening this year.
Thank you very much, Eddie, for taking time for this interview!
Eddie Kang is a South Korean artist who uses colours and comic-like figures to express emotions. One of his major sources of inspiration is his childhood. Eddie Kang recently collaborated with luxury goods brand MCM on a bag and leather accessory line. He lives in South Korea and the US.
(Picture courtesy of Eddie Kang)