Popular mass culture, or “pop” culture is present everywhere in our daily life. Fashion, cinema, music and even interior design are using 80’s and 90’s nostalgia as a major element in the last few years, including a lot of pop culture elements.
How do visual artists fit in this trend? The elite, “too good to mix with the masses” image of contemporary art is still strong, but so wrong! Let’s take a look at a few artists whose are as nerdy as we are, and whose pop-culture inspiration gives birth to amazing art!
Pop culture is known to reference itself A LOT. Understandably so, what feels better than getting all the references?
Auguste, Fatal Jordan (Triple Puzzle), Metal Steel for Wall Mount, 90 x 180 cm
French artist Auguste’s digital collages on aluminium feature a combination of famous European and American Brand’s and pop culture references. This symmetrical work consists of three detachable puzzle pieces joined together to reveal basketball legend Michael Jordan with outstretched arms. The artist’s nostalgia is used to illustrate the vibrant urban culture he loves and a global modern identity we all share.
Indra Wahyu, Lines Guards #2, Acrylic on Canvas,
Indonesian artist Indra Wahyu always depicts fast contemporary life through a whirlwind of colours, bursting with dynamism. He channels emotion and raw energy through his composition, often as a juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated elements. Here, a child is soaring through a sea of children’s cartoons, inspired and encouraged by one of them. The child looks happy, but he is alone. The pop references can be read either as a tribute or a critic.
Comics have also become a major part of international pop culture (Marvel is a good example, with 22 blockbuster movies in just 10 years, and their cinematic universe recently featured at the Singapore ArtScience Museum, for an exhibition that was sold-out!)
David Kracov, FWOOM, 3-layer Metal Wall Sculpture, 36 x 46 x 15 cmDavid Kracov, Duck!, original art with frame, 63 x 68 cm
Kracov's shadow boxes are a combination of instantly recognizable characters and witty, humorous word play, that make us do double and triple takes - upon recognition of the characters and identification with the easy, but efficient pun.
In this piece, the artist depicts the effervescent Daffy Duck in yet another humorous situation; this time, he is in the middle of an impending ski accident, with the title 'duck' a warning for him to 'watch out!' and highlighting the wordplay.
When you hear “pop”, the first thing you think about may be pop culture, but most likely it will be pop music! Generations have danced to it since the 60’s and the world records set by the Beatles...
Wu Qiong, The Beatles, Limited-Edition Print, 56 x 69 cm
Wu Qiong's characters always carry child-like features, emphasising thoughts and emotions that are simple, yet easily forgotten in the motions of reality and time. In this print, the Fab Four are depicted simply playing and living the moment. Far from the political and social tensions of their time, they are remembered for bringing joy to the world, and we are invited to take a few moments to enjoy their happy and whimsical songs, in a child-like and easy pleasure.
Vani, The Times They Are A-Changin’ #7 - Mick Jagger, Acrylic on Canvas, 130 x 100 cm
In his series on legendary musicians, Vani once again puts his signature multicoloured men to work, crafting a regal bust in the image of the ultimate rockstar: Mick Jagger. Vani's keen eye for detail and intricacy adds another layer of depth to the painting, as we see how his rainbow figures stand out from the monochrome of the rest of the work, and how each and every crevice in the sculpted image is carefully etched to bring a life-likeness to his work. The colourful figures presented are symbolic of diversity in race, gender and social origin, and mean that only by working together in peace can we achieve great master pieces. What an inspiring message!