From the days of Lichtenstein and Warhol, the Pop Art movement continues to grow, adapting to advertising trends and remaining current. Back in the 50s when the movement gained popularity, the essence of it was twofold: first, using popular recognisable imagery to create artworks and second, using techniques of mass printing and production to create editions of the same art piece. At that time, it challenged the boundary that the fine arts world had created for itself. It called into question the ‘value’ of a piece of art. It offered new ways of looking at art and through its own selling, it created parallels between fine art and consumer culture.
Today, artists associating themselves as Pop artists retain that outlook but, by experimenting with creating, offer new methods for the development of meaning. They take inspiration from the core teachings of the godfathers of Pop Art but present refreshing visual results. Many of these artists reside in Asia, broadening the journey of the movement Eastwards. Surveying the scene beyond Yayoi Kusama and artists replicating Jeff Koon’s Balloon Dog, the list below is an introduction to the 21st Century Pop Art movement as it continues to expand in Asia.
This young Singapore-based artist takes off from the Lichtensteinian and comic book aesthetic. Working exclusively using bubble wrap as her canvas, Aleeloulalei paints each bubble, building her paintings, literally, pixel by pixel. Her chosen bubble wrap canvas is a twofold commentary on Pop Art. While the exquisite detailing and finishing gives pop culture the attention it needs to become popular, the plasticity of the material captures the transience of this culture. Her works are themed on portraits of celebrities, artists, musicians and celebrated heroes, and they display a self-awareness of the trials and fortunes associated with such an inflated status.
2. Flab Slab
Obsessed with all things Star Wars, Flab Slab’s aesthetic manifests itself in sculptures, collectible designer toys and sometimes, pins. Their work is very accessible and morbidly funny. Flab Slab also proudly maintains one of the most exciting artist studio spaces in Singapore, packed with collectibles left, right and center. In 2016, they released ‘Dark Papa’, a tribute to the late Lee Kuan Yew. In more recent years, one of their works is a parody on Garfield and the lucky Fortune Cat—aptly named the ‘Good Vibes’ toy, ready to paw off evil (pictured in this story's lead photo).
Humbly is inseparable from the comic book inspired art he paints. Working primarily in oils, acrylics and occasionally dabbling in sculpting, Humbly places himself in the narratives he builds in his artworks. His alias, happy-go-lucky robot KR-8 often makes appearances in his paintings—sometimes on a date with robot girlfriend Rosy, sometimes fighting evil on the cover of a cereal box and sometimes just hanging out with his plastic friends. Humbly, born and raised in the Philippines, offers a millennial take on Pop Art today, having grown up along with the mass availability of advertisements, comic book and cartoon franchises and consumer culture. His works offer viewers a reminder of the reality popular culture built around us, breaking that boundary between fiction and non-fiction. But maybe, Humbly also tells us not to take ourselves so seriously.
4. Howie Kim
Howie Kim’s works, in recent years, have begun to reflect the popular age of social media that has become quintessential to our lives. As he remains fascinated with all things kitsch and surreal, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, many of his pieces can be seen as a satire of popular culture today. In his recent works, he delves into fantasy as an escapist mechanism to deal with loss—something all too familiar in the age of social media.
5. Ketna Patel
Ketna Patel is probably best characterised by her use of contrasting primary colours and collage imagery. Another Pop Art purist, her collages are cut from manipulated colour graded photographs of street scenes around Singapore in recent years and other countries around the world (often India) in past years. She creates silkscreens, prints, furniture and textiles, playing with placing her iconic collages on an array of materials. Religious themes and scripts of various languages make their way into her works, and by doing so, she manages to display an understanding of the place religion and culture have in popular narratives.
Having spent a large chunk of his time in Hong Kong and around Asia, Mojoko’s fascination for street signs, neon lights, broken English and anything B-grade is evident in his work. In this region, his style is iconic and possibly classic - mixing the East with popular iconography from the West, resulting in a culture clash that often presents itself in a collage. A pop culture purist, some of Mojoko’s best works till date are silkscreens and prints. He has also experimented with creating sculptures, furniture and wearable textile items, producing great results. Mojoko’s work adds an edge to the Pop Art scene in Singapore and its surrounding markets, and the sense of humor his works carry allow viewers to partake in the fantasies he creates.
(See also: 10 Up-and-Coming Korean Photographers)