Graffiti Meets Japanese Folk Art in Colorful Multimedia Murals

Muralist and painter Boy Kong draws from a variety of artistic wells for his multimedia works.

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Mar 15 2017, 8:26pm

In the work of muralist and painter Boy Kong, graffiti and Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock art brush up against each other. While he brings Japan's traditional "pictures of the floating world" into the work, however, his influences and modes of expression do not end there. As seen in the recent Bouquet series, a series of painted flowers, Boy Kong showcases a style that seems to use modernist colors and abstractions to turn simple forms into more experimental shapes and hues.

The splitting of time between New York City and Kong's hometown of Orlando influences the type of work Boy Kong does. He tell Creators that the art he makes in Orlando is usually larger and a lot more involved because he has the home studio in which to do his work. Most of Boy Kong's mural work, on the other hand, is done in New York City because, as he says, it's not as accepted as an art form in Orlando. During transit between the two cities he works on sketches, which he later develops into paintings or other artistic works at his home studio.

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"I'm inspired by so many things I find it hard to accept that I would run out one day," Boy Kong says. "I usually take photos with my camera or save references that makes me tick. Then I try to figure out what element or feelings about the image or artist that makes me create."

"Ukiyo-e and graffiti have different flares that I'm in love with and they also share similar flares as well," he says. "Graffiti has the exaggerated lines and movement I love. Ukiyo-e has fine and folk quality to the lines that I love also, so I find myself fusing the two."

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Apart from graffiti and ukiyo-e interests, Boy Kong also infuses his work with elements of surrealism and animal folklore. He doesn't really feel that the Bouquet series is neo-modernist or neo-impressionistic, though. For him, he paints flowers the way he has always painted things; there are no calculated attempts to conjure the past and update it, though he does admit to dusting "old ways" off and using them here and there. This, he says, can work well if the viewers aren't used to the style.

Boy Kong's mural work is admittedly more experimental, even improvisational. He has tried bringing the approach he uses on smaller studio pieces to the mural work, but it doesn't always turn out the same way.

"I try to have fun with murals nowadays," says Boy Kong. "I don't have a method yet, so experimenting is my technique."

Boy Kong paints both outside and inside murals. A big theme in his murals, as well as in some of his paintings, are abstracted versions of tigers and dragons typically found in ukiyo-e or even Chinese folk art. Tigers and other animals like hummingbirds also show up in works that Boy Kong carves out of wood and then paints. The ink illustrations that Boy Kong posts to his website and Instagram accounts tend to be black and white, with a heavy emphasis on linework.

"Ink illustrations are my muse to line drawings and they usually challenge me like some sort of math problem," he adds. "I'll do them on the side to keep me on my toes."

Not all of Boy Kong's work is so abstract or surreal. He also does a lot of figurative paintings, particularly colorful portraits. A few of these works border on photorealistic, but often feature elements that quickly clue the viewer into the artifice of it all.

In a recent Instagram video, Boy Kong gives fans a pick of a new work. This one is sculptural: a giant baby's head that features his characteristic blotches of color. Boy Kong can be seen in the video tagging the baby's head with pink spray paint.

Boy Kong is carving a few new pieces and doing work for an exhibition at Gitler &_____ in New York City that will open this September. It is unknown if the giant's baby will be in attendance. Click here to see more of Boy Kong's work.

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