Hong Kong-based illustrator and designer Man-Tsun has found an unusual way to display his art at hip local bookshop Kubrick.
Rather than hanging his work on the walls, he used a UV flatbed printer to put his designs onto transparent plastic -- a process he’d not used before. He says the results have the fineness of printing on art paper while allowing the viewer to perceive the transparency of the material.
We caught up with the artist to find out more about him and the project.
DA: What's your background?
MT: "I was born in Hong Kong and studied Fine Art in Canada. I am now working as a creative manager and create lots of corporate and commercial stuff. Once I get off work, I turn myself 180 degrees and create illustrations with my own style which I called it 'Dark-Abstractness'."
DA: What are your influences?
MT: "Since my college years, [manga artists] Inoue Takehiko and Sho-u Tajima have been like gods to me. Their black and white inking work are just too amazing and until now my works are still very much influenced by these two guys."
DA: How did you come to put on this exhibition?
MT: "Instead of showing [my work] online, I thought 'why not having an actual exhibition to expose it to the open public and let them criticise my works?'. I started to look for different venue where I can showcase my new concept of doing transparent illustrations and then I was lucky enough to find a place called Kubrick. It is very popular store where you find very cool artist’s products and creative books. When I first presented my concept of doing transparency-based art, they just loved it -- even though I didn't have many pictures to support my concept. [They loved that] this is something that's never been done in Hong Kong before, so I was allowed to hold my show and mess up their place. I'm lucky.
DA: What tools do you work with?
MT: "I used Adobe Illustrator to work on my stuff, and then I have to count on a very good printing company to print on the materials.
DA: How were the semi-transparent pieces printed for the exhibition?
MT: "I had been trying test prints from different printing companies until I found a company that I was very happy with the results with. Normally, when we print on non-paper materials such as plastic, the color get a bit washed out and noise can be seen. This situation gets even worse on transparency.
"I saw a little transparent name tag from a friend’s office. The colour on the name tag looks rich and solid without any noise, so I turned detective to hunt for this production company behind it. I reached the company, they use a UV flatbed printer to print on the transparency directly. The result is perfect. It looks like a fine printing on art paper -- but with transparency!"
DA: What does the use of transparency allow you to do with your artworks that's different from working with traditional prints on paper?
MT: "Using transparency, I can create multi-layered pieces. It really helps expanding my idea conceptually and visually. These individual layer represents an idea of its own but once these layers join together, they become a story. For example, the front layer is a guitarist in a dark and deadly garden. The second layer is a skeleton, so it creates a story of a guitarist who has been eaten by the garden and become a skeleton.
"Visually, it creates a 3D illusion, but what interests me the most is the shadow under the spot light. Every layer has its own shadow and affects the layers behind. It seems like a lot of extra details are being applied to the illustration and it enriches the entire composition without distorting the visual itself. I can see my audiences are very interested to spend time looking at every corner from different angles.
"Also, the illustration itself can merge with the environment and interact with people. For example, one of the illustrations is mix of a bird cage and a lady’s head (below). Once an audience member stands behind it, it will look like his head is being caged."
DA: How does knowing that a piece will be displayed in this way affect the way you create your pieces?
MT: "These pieces and illustration are all semi transparency, so it really affected the surrounding light source. By the time, I was creating these stuff, I knew the light source was a bit yellowish, so I made a few small test prints to see how the colour would look like under a similar light at home.
"I had to spend quite a bit of time to render the right colours that will work well with the yellow light. However, this was not 100% accurate, so at the end I could only guess how it will look like in the venue. It was like a gamble to me. There would be a chance to wreck my works. If I miscalculated on the position of my works and the number of spot lighting around. I was a bit stressed before and during the day of installation, but at the end, It looked very much like what I had in mind before and I was very happy with the result.
"However, there was one thing I had miscalculated. There was a window in the venue and three of my pieces were right next to it, so during the day time these pieces turned blue due to the sunlight. It was OK to me because most of the audience came at night. Not many people could get to see the blue ugly pieces."
DA: What did you want to achieve with the butterflies?
MT: "These butterflies played a very important role in my exhibition. First of all, they were part of the main piece. Every exhibition that I have held so far, I start with the main piece -- I treat this piece as the main character of the show. It is not only the biggest piece, but I also put extra thought and details on it to make it the most stunning one in the show.
"[For this exhibition the main piece is a] guitarist in a deadly garden and I wanted him to be surrounded by some evil butterflies. Instead of drawing a group of butterflies in a separated layer, I thought it would be much more interesting to do individual butterflies as separate pieces. I could then place them wherever I want.
"As you can see the guitarist is now being eaten by the group of butterflies and has become a skeleton. The entire piece looks much more dynamic with their help.
"Secondly, I could dress up the venue with the,m. These butterflies are not only part of the main illustration, they is all over the place. They sit on the window, display table, bookshelf and even on the venue’s huge logo display. I want the audiences to experience the deadly environment and play with the butterflies.
"Lastly, it also served as a very good giveaway item."