James Chen-Feng Kao

6 Oct

Artist Statement
I am interested in cartoon abstraction and suggested narratives, and I place characters and the audience within a complex interactive environment.  I create graphic cartoon-style characters and draw them with ink strokes inspired by Chinese calligraphy.  These hybrid characters are placed into drawings with certain positions alongside photo-transferred realistic elements to suggest conceptual stories that do not progress.  I also have created character sculptures that are placed in suggestive formations or painted with abstract patterns.  The drawings and sculptures form character-world glimpses that interact with the audience and are reflections of my self-perceived identity as a constant stranger/outsider.

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Traditional Chinese calligraphy is a discipline and art form that dates back to Ancient China (more than 1000 years BC).  Calligraphy has evolved over time and adapted by other East Asian countries.  You can see examples of ancient characters that have evolved in this video:

I takes time and dedication to become an accomplished calligrapher.  Some train for years!  Calligraphy may LOOK easy, but Paul Cavanagh from Australia will tell you that it’s not.  “His first inglorious attempt was something that looked like it came from a kindergarten.”  Even according to Chen Xiang, a Chinese calligraphy teacher who believes calligraphy should be accessible to anyone, it still takes a dedicated 30 hours to become a decent calligrapher.  If you want to learn some basics about calligraphy, go here.

James Chen-Feng Kao‘s work is interesting because he takes a discipline that has gone from pictures to symbols/words and he brings it back to pictures again, this time in cartoon abstractions and sometimes narratives.

Ye Genyou and Andre Kneib also have their own takes on calligraphy, if you’re interested.

Some Lesson Ideas for students???
1.  Create your own cartoon narrative in calligraphy style.

2.  Create your own word bank using symbols in a calligraphy style.  For example: watch this for the evolution of the word “lonely.” (0:00-1:51)

3. Create a conceptual scene incorporating calligraphy and photo-realistic images.

4. ?

Do you have any thoughts/contributions/ideas??




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