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藝術世界總是被認為具有極度排他性且高不可攀,甚至被定性為與商業及流行文化互相抵觸。然而,早在過往Chessman Post所介紹的許多藝術家,已身體力行地嘗試透過創作場所和作品概念,讓藝術不再只存在於道德高地,而是更確切地穿梭在大眾視野中。近期香港維港海域再被一具巨型藝術作品「侵佔」,在獨特又帶有親切感的XX眼睛和灰色身軀背後,創造這位「大人物」的著名藝術家KAWS到底是誰?且聽今期Chessman Post為大家逐一解構。

KAWS本名Brian Donnelly,1974年出生於美國,藝術及創意細胞濃厚的他早於高中時期就開始街頭創作,初期他總是把公車站和電話亭的廣告海報偷偷帶回家,以個人風格加以改造,再放置回原處,這一妙思逐漸引起大眾對他的關注,也為他後來與各大小潮牌及商業機構合作定下了基礎。

KAWS擅於以大眾熟知的卡通人物為藍本,創造出屬於自己的角色,可謂是另類的同人先驅,像是他最為人熟悉的角色Companion,就是發想自經典迪士尼人物Micky Mouse。然而換上標誌性骷髏頭和大大XX眼睛後,就被賦予了另一個搞怪有趣的靈魂,成為KAWS的招牌角色。

經過前期與日本潮流品牌Bounty Hunter的合作,KAWS的創作開始進入街頭潮流文化圈子,後期更開始進入流行文化區域,甚至跨進商業設計行業,更多領域的人因而看見他的藝術創作。KAWS創作的原點來自於「已有」與「原創」的碰撞,令他能巧妙地拿捏那一條區分藝術的界線。

即便是流轉在消費主義世界的商業作品,KAWS總是能為其染上充滿自我風格的藝術色彩。由他大至漂浮海中的巨型玩偶作品,小至展覽於藝術場所的畫作,無一不模糊了藝術高不可攀的刻板印象。2019年愚人節,KAWS的畫作《THE KAWS ALBUM》於香港蘇富比拍賣會上拍賣,創下逾港幣$1.2億成交的天價記錄,足足高出估價14倍。曾經被評價難登大雅之堂的街頭藝術,最終登上象徵藝術作品商業價值的最高殿堂,可想而知,街頭藝術、次文化已漸漸脫去被貶視的枷鎖,獲得大眾認同和喜愛。透過適度的商業合作,兩者誰也不喧賓奪主以追求平衡,因而得以傳播並進入到大眾視野, KAWS對藝術作品的定義,不正正是最貼合現今世代需求的藝術普及方式嗎?

是次香港KAWS: HOLIDAY大型裝置藝術展覽,由最具代表性的Companion角色化身37米長的吹氣玩偶,以大字型姿態「酣睡」維港,一如他意指陪伴的名字,期望能為每日繁忙工作和生活的香港都市人,帶來放鬆且療癒的「假期」,亦希望以此引起眾人的反思,藝術作品無論是存在於何處,是依附在哪一種形體上,它們的根本都是為了為大眾創造快樂的回憶,又何必總是拘泥在它們的表達形式上呢?

雖然因天氣原因,KAWS: HOLIDAY早已游離香港,邁向下一站目的地,仍期望將來能在這個彈丸之地,迎接更多KAWS WORKS,感受當中流行文化和藝術文化的碰撞交融,與他手中一眾角色創造更多歡笑幽默的回憶。

撰文:劉瑞婷
美術:王曉澄

The world of Art is often regarded as unapproachable and extremely exclusive. Some even think that it is in conflict with business and popular culture. Nevertheless, many artists who were introduced in Chessman Post have been trying to break the stereotype towards art through various concepts of their work, making art more accessible to general public. Recently, Victoria Harbour has been ‘invaded’ by a gigantic artwork with a pair of unique ‘XX eyes’ and huge grey body. Do you actually know who is the prominent artist creating this ‘Bigwig’? Chessman Post is going to introduce him to you all this week!

Brian Donnelly, best known as the artist KAWS, was born in 1974 in New Jersey. Having a keen interest in art, he has started his career in street art since high school by diverting the advertising posters at different bus stops and telephone booths, which successfully caught the general public’s eye and paved the way for his collaboration with different fashion brands and business organizations.

KAWS makes his work different by reworking on popular cartoon characters, and his most famous character, ‘Companion’ is a vinyl finger of classic Mickey Mouse with a pair of X-ed out eyes and pirate skull with crossbones shortened to form ears.

After the collaboration with Japanese streetwear brand Bounty Hunter, Kaw’s creations have gained exposure in not only street culture, but also popular culture and commercial design. The dots between street art and fine art are joined up in his artworks, and the lines between high and low culture are increasingly blurred by the collision between ‘social commentary’ and ‘establishment’.

Since the beginning of his career, his work has already been connected to the world of commerce by transforming the ads at bus stations and telephone booths into his own artworks. In this case, ads are turned into art. Later, by releasing his creations in accessible, affordable forms such as T-shirts, figurines, and collectibles, KAWS turns art into products, while his unique personal style still remains highly visible among them. When people buy the products and place them on the wall or tables in their houses, the products can be regarded as art again. In other words, his art indeed stands between fine art and global commerce.

On 1st April 2019, his work THE KAWS ALBUM was sold for HK$115.9 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, which is 14 times the high estimate. KAWS has successfully turned subversive street art into something that everyone wants through effective collaboration with different brands and organizations. As the boundaries between fine art and street art are blurred, art is more accessible to general public as well. Isn’t it the best way to popularize art when an artist is able to make products that people view as art?

The KAWS: HOLIDAY moving art installation landed in Hong Kong and the 37-metres long Companion sculpture slept soundly in a sprawl in Victoria harbour. KAWS wanted to create a work that could get Hong Kong people to relax and take a healing moment for themselves in this busy city. On top of that, he also wants to tell the public that the main purpose of an artwork is to create unforgettable and valuable memories for the general public, so we do not have to adhere rigidly to the form of it.

Although KAWS:HOLIDAY has left Hong Kong and headed to the next destination already due to the unsettled weather, we still hope to meet more KAWS WORKS in the future to experience the culture integration between popular culture and art, and to create more fun and memorable memories.

Translated by: Natalie Hui
Art: Agnes Wong

ISSUE #235

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