Saturday, February 26th, 2011 | 86 Comments
Montreal-based illustrator Edward Kwong proudly mines the gamut of art movements of the first half of the 20th century to create images both familiar and strikingly new. His graphic approach is a mashup of Art Deco, Futurism, German Expressionism, crossed with the urgency of comic book art and bold typography.
His portraits of Greek gods in his “Mythos” project are rendered in a style that feels like something between Art Nouveau and Deco, but are intimate and original re-interpretations of the
age old themes.
We caught up with Edward Kwong to talk about his inspiration and work in the upcoming Anthology Project Volume 2.
Your art has a strong current of Art Deco styling to it. What is it about the art and design from that period that inspires you? What are some of your other influences?
There’s always been something strangely timeless for me about the ’20s and ’30s that I’ve always been fond of, whether being its music, its fashion, architecture, or its art and design; those decades stick out in my mind as having a particular sense of audaciousness and modern elegance that I admire, both aesthetically and in terms of creative spirit.
That coupled with the fact that Art Deco incorporates other design styles and movements (Neoclassical sculpture and architecture, Cubist painting, Constructivist poster design) that have influenced my work in one way or another over the years, will give you a good indication as to why I have an inclination towards the style.
Beyond that, I’m interested in Mythology, Orientalism, Symbolism, ’50s and ’60s design/illustration, and poster design in general. I should also mention those individuals who continue to inspire me to push myself further to no end, guys like Gustav Klimt, J.C. Leyendecker, Charley Harper and James Jean to name a few.
Those decades stick out in my mind as having a particular sense of audaciousness and modern elegance that I admire, both aesthetically and in terms of creative spirit.
We love the images from your Mythos Project, which you descried as “A compendium of reinterpretations of the Greek Pantheon”. Can you tell us about what prompted this series and what you draws you to Greek mythology as source material?
The Mythos Project started out of a desire to step as far away from the classical representations of the Greek pantheon, and a choice to skew the image that I think most people in western culture have in their minds when they think of what say Zeus or Poseidon look like.
There’s so much symbolism and richness to each myth that it provides a plethora of ways to mold each character to whatever fashion I see fit, to extrapolate my interpretation of their characters. I suppose it’s my way, through art, of further appropriating the myth of those who have been adopted before. Just as the Romans gave Greek gods new names, I’ll try to give them new faces for modern times and for “posterity’s sake”, as a good friend of my mine so often says.
Furthermore, I’m fond of the notion of deities, as seemingly all wise and powerful as they are, having the propensity to be as emotional and petty as humans. Where else, but in Greek mythology do you find gods who routinely meddle in earthly affairs for their own whims, that sleep around and throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want? Olympus, that’s where.
What were some of your favourite projects to work on
I find it hard to pick favourites among my past projects, or rather, I can’t say if I have one. I try as much as possible to enjoy an aspect of creation from each and every one. Some more, some less. It’s always nice to have projects that invite me to push myself as far as possible and encourage me to take risks creatively.
More often than not, personal projects excite me more so than commercial work. All the better if whatever I happen to be working on manages to make me feel nostalgic or bring me back to that feeling of unbridled awesomeness you get when you’re a kid drawing something you love, and the world your focused in makes utter sense. That’s a great feeling to be reminded of.
You now live and work in Montreal after having schooled at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. What drew you to Montreal? Can you tell us about the art scene there?
I moved here for family, good friends and a change of cultural flavor, compared to Vancouver where I lived after graduation. I actually wanted to move to New York initially, but those plans didn’t work out as I had hoped; Montreal was close and about the most foreign major city in Canada that I could think of to move to.
There seems to be a healthy appreciation and a community for the arts here relative to other Canadian cities I’ve lived in. I’m not particularly involved in it, but there’s no shortage of art exhibits to see from established and new artists on a regular basis. I wish I could say more, but I haven’t lived in Montreal all that long.
Given unlimited time and resources, what would be your “dream project”?
I’d love to have the opportunity to create thorough book collections of illustrated mythologies from around the world, printed up nice and big and real thick.
Or Better yet, fill a large space with massive murals, sculptures and installations to tell the tales of various world mythologies in order for people to experience my work on a grand scale. That would be cherry indeed.
Anything on the horizon we can look forward to from you?
I illustrated the cover and have a short comic in “The Anthology Project Vol. 2”, a comic anthology that will be coming out this spring, published by Lucidity Press.
I’m also starting as the colourist for a new DC title called, “The Witchlands”, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Connor Willumsen. It should be out later this year.
Keep an eye out on my blog for more additions to the Mythos Project as time goes on.
S&TM: We’d like to thank Edward Kwong for taking the time to do this interview and for contributing the beautful header artwork!
All images © 2011 Edward Kwong.