PORTRAIT CITY SERIES: PHUNK
PORTRAIT CITY SERIES: SINGAPORE
Champ Magazine Issue #8
Portrait & Studio Visit by Marc Tan
Location: PHUNK studio, Singapore
Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, PHUNK is a collective made up of four friends. Alvin Tan, Jackson Tan, Melvin Chee and William Chan, who met at Lasalle (College of The Arts). They came together during a time of heavy censorship and creativity was close to non-existent in Singapore, but now have names such as Comme des Garcons, NIKE, MTV, and Levi‘s under their belt.
PHUNK‘s studio itself is the gallery space where the collective gathers, produces work, and occasionally hold exhibitions, not just for themselves but a range of artists. The art of the PHUNK collective focuses on collaborations and it is distinguishable by their signature controlled chaos-type paintings and designs, mixing genres such as traditional Chinese folklore, pop-culture, Japanese manga and a pinch of punk attitude.
CHAMP FAM and Singapore-based photographer Marc Tan visited the studio & caught up with the guys.
Needless to say, they are setting the bar for multi-displinary design globally, with a visionary perspective.
Your work crosses all mediums not only just that of art and graphic design – but film, animation, graffiti, audiovisual installations - what do you each bring notably from your own backgrounds with this like-minded interest?
We met when we were graphic design students at LASALLE College of the Arts and came together in 1994 after graduation to form PHUNK.
We shared many common interests such as old Hong Kong kungfu TV serials, Chinese mythology and Japanese manga, to British indie music, American pop culture. We do not make a distinction between art and design. We each have our own forte and specialization; Jackson (Installations), William (Film/ Motion), Alvin (Graphic), Melvin (Illustration). We mix and merge our skills into a collective artistic approach. We like to explore, express and communicate our ideas through different mediums. Our projects spans across art, design, publishing, fashion, music, film and interactive. We like to blur the lines and boundaries between art and design, creativity and commerce, craft and technology.
With your work being internationally acclaimed, what keeps you and your team based in Singapore?
It’s interesting to be working as a creative in Singapore right now, there’s an emerging scene with a lot of talents. Singapore is also very exciting as a city to live and create as it is globalised, modern, young, open and diverse. There’s no traditional cultural baggage. It’s a blank canvas, we can make new marks and set new bars.
How important is it to work globally?
It’s inevitable for us, as Singapore has a small population and industry. We have to go global regardless.
Your works also delves into the traditions, philosophies and mythologies of China, or Japanese subscultures and uniqueness of otaku. What was something that surprised you about something, that you previously weren’t aware of?
When we delve deeper into it, we were surprised by how they are somehow linked and interconnected, expressed and celebrated differently in the respective cultures. For example, one of the characters we drew in the CONTROL CHAOS series called LEI GONG, (he is the god of thunder in the chinese mythology,) is Raijin in the Japanese mythology and Thor in the Norse mythology and Marvel Superhero in American pop-culture.
What is involved in your research process?
A lot is found through travels, conversations with the local friends, trips to the local libraries, book stores and museums as well from watching television.
How important is travel?
It is essential, we love to travel. It’s the best way to experience cultures and meet like minded creators. We actually created an artwork base on our constant travels around the world. We feel inspired by the positive energy pulsating through our favorite cities such as Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. In these cities, there is a palpable electricity in the air, generated by the energy and imagination of it’s people. We wanted to portray a city that was non-geographical but cross-cultural in nature, an electric city formed by the collective spirit of these cities. It is a journey into an imaginary megalopolis within our PHUNK universe. It is a hybrid of the different cultures and energy of cities we admire ELECTRICITY is a celebration of the spirit of globalization and diversity. In this city, there is no distinction between the East and West. “Love” is the common language, and the young and fresh creative energy of the people powers the city.
830 x 300 cm
Carbon ink transfer of illustration on wood panels, animated projection mapping.
Where is your favourite country and place to visit?
We are always inspired by our trips to Japan, the creative energy from the streets of Tokyo, the breathtaking landscapes and scenery of Kyoto and the wonderful food and warm kindness of our Japanese friends.
What is the one items that you find yourself always travelling with – and take for every trip?
A journal and a good local friend.
And finally, what projects are you currently working on, and for us to expect in the future?
We are currently working on a new series of artworks for upcoming exhibitions in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Army of Love (Crimson)
Silkscreen on canvas with diamond dust
100 x 140 cm
You can find PHUNK featured in our latest Issue #8 of CHAMP Magazine.