Keeping it Real with Fragility, An Interview with Graffiti Artist & Toy Creator SONG
“Running about like a kid and sweating madly—it’s the most passionate thing in the world!”
A message posted on Instagram by SONG (頌君), a graffiti and toy creator, after releasing the animation Takumashi Syonen (堅強少年) shows that the persona that SONG projects in his work is somewhat silly but also utterly genuine.
“Whether I make it big is a matter of luck, but my work has to be all about stories. It cannot just be a mishmash,” he added.
Ongoing struggles on the creative path
This young artist has been cooking up a storm in the art world and has livened up countless boring walls with his vibrantly colorful graffiti. However, SONG’s creative impulse has enabled him to go beyond the flatness of the wall.
Inspired by the action figures he loves, SONG has transformed himself from a collector into a creator with Takumashi Syonen (堅強少年), who wears a rhinoceros beetle–shaped helmet, carries a butterfly net, and stands ready for battle.
SONG designed his action figure to have a silly, foolish feel: “I wanted to convey that everyone has a delicate side. My primary creative intention was to make something real.”
But as you look closer at the doll’s face, you discover its air of fear and dread.
“A collector once specifically told me that it looks like it’s gritting its teeth and bracing itself,” says SONG as he turns the action figure around and continues to dissect the clever design.
“On the back there’s my English name ‘SONG’, but I also added ‘Nio’ with Eastern elements to express a sense of moral decency and fortitude.”
SONG is frank about not liking an overly uniform style, so a viewer looking over his works might sense a hybrid aesthetic.
“I realized that I like to confuse people with what I do. Even though my works have a certain American style, they’re also infused with Eastern flair. Takumashi Syonen best embodies this idea.”
A mixed aesthetic
SONG talks about the toys he purchased the first time he went to Taipei Toy Fair (TTF), which also had a unique aesthetic mix.
“I have deep admiration for the Singaporean graffiti designer ClogTwo,” he said excitedly. “In his work ‘HELL LOTUS REINCARNATION’ he used lotuses, Buddha beads, and other Eastern elements in a unique language that’s also universal all over Asia.”
SONG also mentions Taiwanese-American illustrator and artist James Jean, whose works began to show compositional innovation when he changed path and started creating fine art, and yet his works still show many Eastern elements. These various artistic influences have combined to make the SONG we see today.
Besides trying his hand at making action figures, for SONG this creative work also symbolizes his ambition to develop in several fields.
“I wanted to use this character as a starting point and start all kinds of crossover collaborations.” So again he approached his works from the perspective of his favorite animation, letting Takumashi Syonen run amok.
When asked about his future artistic aspirations, SONG is adamant that he will continue to focus on graffiti, but that he will connect the stories using this Takumashi Syonen character to construct a comprehensive world view.
“I’m going to integrate its stories into all my graffiti, action figures, and even animations. By blending all the stories, the overall visuals will have tension and plot.”
Learning to see the world through comics
Looking back over his artistic development, it strikes SONG that it’s comics that are the origin of everything. Born in 1994, he remembers his dad having a large comic book collection, exposing him to a wider range than other people his age.
“Osamu Tezuka’s (手塚治虫) Buddha, for example. That had a great impact on me when I was little. Actually, the story’s religious background also influenced my creative philosophy.”
SONG is also deeply attracted to powerfully realistic subject matters.
“The dark side and the struggles of human nature depicted in Takehiko Inoue’s (井上雄彥) REAL, for example, also led me to form a habit of observing people.”
SONG still enjoys flipping through printed comic books to this day. He sounds upbeat when he starts chatting about the various kinds of comics, and in fact is even more excited than when talking about his own work. Maybe it’s the love of reading rooted deep in his heart that drives him and gives him the energy to continue creating.
Laughing, he says: “I even went and got out Silver Fang—The Shooting Star Gin especially for today’s interview. And then I realized that that too seems to have influenced my drawing style.”
So if, as the Chinese saying goes, “Children who learn music don’t go bad,” then maybe kids who read comics are never alone. After all, the colorful worlds depicted in comics not only nurture your understanding of the world but also teach you to observe it. Just like SONG, who ceaselessly searches out the materials in his life and projects his soul into each of his amazing creations.