Asia’s Comic Art Takes Greater Strides

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop (International Herald Tribune) / 8 January 2010


A new trend in Asian contemperory art talks of the visual language of animation and comics, aptly termed — Animamix


The term ‘Animamix’ was coined in 2006 by the Taiwanese art critic and curator Victoria Lu to describe a new aesthetic trend she had observed in Asian contemporary art, one that incorporates the visual language of animation and comics.


Lu helped organise the inaugural Animamix Biennial in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Shanghai, and the event has now expanded to four museums in the first major cross-straits international biennial, which began in December.

Exhibitions around the Animamix theme are being staged at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, Today’s Art Museum in Beijing, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei and the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou.

Lu, who is the creative director of the MoCA Shanghai and the artistic director of the biennial, said that Animamix’s characteristics include the worship of youth and the pursuit of an idealised youthful beauty; strong narrative texts and images; and the use of vivid and colourful visuals derived from electronic media.

Yang Na, based in Beijing, is one of the 300 or so artists selected for the Animamix Biennial. She paints doll-like women with pouty mouths and perfect porcelain skin; yet their eyes are empty, hinting at the superficiality of their beauty and the artist’s reflection on her generation’s obsession with appearance and consumption. The new generation of Asian artists may have been influenced by a diet of Japanese manga, anime and computer games, but Lu is quick to point out that Animamix goes beyond a straightforward incorporation of those media.


She argues that, unlike the pop artists of the 1960s and ‘70s, who simply appropriated visual symbols from comics and animation, Animamix artists are already completely immersed in their aesthetic. They like to blur the distinctions between high-brow and low-brow art. They are also engaged in various creative fields and often integrate those fields into their works, she said. One of this trend’s leaders is the prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who, like Andy Warhol, has successfully repackaged low-brow culture and promoted it to high art. But he has also gone a step further than Warhol by making his art available on everything from T-shirts and plush dolls to Louis Vuitton handbags.

Many Animamix artists are creating their own comics-style characters that regularly reappear in their works. The Korean artist Kwon Ki-soo uses a computer-like graphic lexicon characterised by pared-down parameters with his artistic alter-ego, Dongguri — a black-and-white line-drawn figure with a permanent grin that roams across simplified, colourful traditional Korean landscapes. Dongi Lee, another Korean artist, created Atomaus, a cross between the Japanese animation character Atom and Mickey Mouse, who has adventures in real and imaginary settings. The Taiwan-based jewellery designer and artist Jeff Dah-Yue Shi conceived Zha long, a cherubic, tattooed boy who is a combination of the martial artist Bruce Lee and Na Cha, a character from Chinese mythology often depicted flying with a wheel of fire under each foot. Each exhibition features different Animanix artists, with some overlaps. In Taiwan, the MoCA Taipei’s ‘Visual Attract and Attack’ features about 50 artists, not all of whom are from Asia: along with pieces by Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara from Japan are works by Angelo Volpe of Italy, Virginie BarrÚ of France, Inbal Shved of Israel, Lelya Borisenko of Russia and Maya Lin of the United States.

The aim of the exhibition is to show the international spread of the Animamix, explains Maple Yujie Lin, MoCA Taipei’s chief curator.

Images by: Nasser Lubay (Philippines) & Lelya Boresinko (Russia) 



Nasser Lubay