May Ann Licudine has carved her story out of trees.
Quite literally, the artist from La Union, Philippines has hollowed out sections of tree wood for several of her pieces to be featured in this weekend’s solo exhibition: Babu’s Daydream. We spoke with MALL—as she is known in the art world—about the characters in her show, specific mediums she gravitates to, overcoming challenges and much more!
Nucleus: Hi MALL, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.
MALL: No problem, thanks for sending me questions!
Nucleus: We’ve been excited to hear your answers! To begin, let’s talk about the title of your solo show: Babu's Daydream. Would you consider Babu your alter ego?
MALL: Yes, absolutely.
NUCLEUS: It’s an evident connection considering how whimsical you both appear to be. We noticed that Babu and Abu are recurring characters in many of your pieces—can you tell us a bit about their story?
MALL: They are my personal characters who explore mysterious forest places and dreams, discovering odd and weird creatures along the way... Just like the comics of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, but with a mostly forest-themed motif.
NUCLEUS: We sensed a sort of Winsor McCay-an vibe to those two. You seem to be big on forests! Is there something characteristically unique about creating art on tree wood that makes it a special canvas to work on?
MALL: For my wood art, the paint actually absorbs faster. My new pieces involve washi tape art on resin-covered wood!
NUCLEUS: From the looks of it, you’ve figured out a way to make all the different mediums work in harmony. Which is your favorite medium? Do you import your washi tapes from somewhere specific or shop locally for it, perhaps?
MALL: Oh, my favorite medium is pencil on paper because it's easier and more comfortable to use! Yes, I purchased washi tapes from different online shops like Rakuten Japan, Pinkoi and Etsy. Oh gosh, I’m not sure how many washi tapes I have, too many to count, haha...
NUCLEUS: Maybe your next show with us can be nothing but washi tape. Let’s switch gears for a bit: what’s the most challenging part of your art process?
MALL: Mmmm, the most challenging part of being an artist is to try and push the barriers, to come up with new and thrilling mediums to create something that will make a difference in people's lives... which will make them want to dream and connect to that piece. The whole purpose of art is to make people discuss what they saw and analyze it at all levels.
Also... Making sculptures. Sometimes I make mistakes during my art process, but at least I can fix them again!
NUCLEUS: We agree that art is about making a connection—about making people have a conversation about the art—and that this can be tough to do! Here’s another fastball: What's the most difficult thing you've ever done in your life?
MALL: Major depression, suicidal disorder and crazy health issues like this:
NUCLEUS: Looking at this illustration evokes so many emotions that we can’t imagine how it must’ve been to go through all of that. We’re so glad that you’re doing better now MALL!
There’s a common thread throughout the pieces in your exhibition and it’s that they all seem infused with personal energy, with a variety of emotions which are clearly motivated by your life. How have your health challenges affected or influenced your artwork?
MALL: Well, my very first health challenge that influenced me would be my inborn hearing deficiency. Having a hard time interpreting the things around me, pictures, images and symbols helped me a lot since they are easier to understand compared to words. Art became my foundation, strength, and it destroyed communication barriers to my social life.
I suffered from my major depression / suicidal disorder again when I had serious health issues; I felt quite paranoid, hopeless and negative. My good friends visited me at the hospital and gave me a new sketchpad, pencil and colored pencils. So I tried to draw art during my recovery period, which made me focus on positivity, bravery, and motivation. It became my outlet for my inner thoughts and emotions.
And yeah, I surprisingly noticed that my style seemed improved; maybe because I was way too serious about focusing on art, haha.
NUCLEUS: It’s probably safe to say that you wouldn’t be the same person you are today had you not gone through these trials and hardships. When all is said and done, maybe the only things we really need are good friends and a good sketchbook!
Switching gears yet again: we know that dreams, nightmares, nature and folk music are things that heavily inspire you… Are there specific examples which you’d like to share with us?
MALL: Sometimes I draw/paint my dreams and nightmares if I remember them—I then add my characters like Babu and Abu, creating a world for their adventures! As for inspirations, I am extremely inspired by one of my favorite “surrealistic” movies, Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. The scenes were beautiful and eerie.
NUCLEUS: That beauty and eeriness definitely translates into your work. Akira Kurosawa seems to be a point of fascination for several of us then... So many films (he directed around thirty), so little time!
Some of us here at the gallery are Filipino, one of the things that excites us about you as an artist is the fact that you’re vocal about your roots! Have you ever considered doing art that taps into your Filipino heritage or Philippine culture in general?
MALL: Wow, so happy to know that Filipinos work at Nucleus—say hi to them for me! :) Yes, in fact, I have worked on artworks / commissioned commercial work about the Philippine culture in the past... But as of this moment, no.
NUCLEUS: Last but certainly not least, what are you most proud of?
MALL: I’m really proud of myself. Even with all the hardships—physically, emotionally and mentally—I was able to endure and face them; none of this would have been possible without the help and support of my family, relatives, friends and my boyfriend, who never gave up on me.
NUCLEUS: We’re really proud of you too, MALL. Keep pushing boundaries and daring us to dream.
What is nostalgia without a solution of the new to activate it?
Killian Eng's works are pop sci fi lost artifacts from the late 70s or early 80s. An artist who's work feels like it has existed for the last 30 years and is just now being discovered or re discovered and digitally remastered. It is a retro future, a yesterday's tomorrow of an era when cd's were making their debut. Its phsychadelic but so much more a sci fi trip than an acid one. He works primarily with lines and dots and whatever texture is suggested by a combination of the two. I love the flat colors, gradations and airbrush styles that are signatures of his work. Amongst a sharpened hyper age of HD everything I have become a sucker for the look of a VHS video.
His first book Object 5 and this new book Object 10 was adequately titled as the size and content have doubled since his first debut. What was once an indy pub soft cover 8.5 x 5.5 soft cover is now an 8.5 x 11 hardcover printed in better quality.
I am not sure how long the artist has worked in this style but Killian knows his medium well. There is a strong fashion and architectural sensibility present in the work. The perspective is often two or one point and often imperfect but it is what partly gives its charm.
One of my favorite activities is to try and guess at an artists' influences without any confirmation or evidence to back up my claims and upon close inspection of Killian's work...well,here goes: Nintendo game box art, Syd Mead, Moebius, Katushiro Otomo, dreams, German symbolist painters and kittens. Killian if you are reading this please confirm. The rest of you join in with your own guesses.
(Were a whole game or film were set in this world then sign me up. In the mean time I will stare at his alien utopias, and dream about past futures.)
(Not sure what this is but I it is an illustrated diagram of what it feels like to burp, sneeze and cry at the same time.)
(I had a dream like this once...I think you were in it. We made some sweet dark tunes. Weird....)
If you miss MTV's Liquid television, Laser discs, and the original DUNE you may want to pick this book up...with your power glove.
The idealized female form has been the subject of many. The cartoon female is equally diverse in its various proportions and styles. It's a fine art in itself to make a female cartoon character appealing, much less anatomically elegant and convincing.
Some who have inspired in this field are: Glen Keane, Fred Moore, Earl Oliver Hurst, Mary Blair...the list goes on and on.
Elsa Chang is currently a freelance character designer and in her latest self published sketchbook, she has amassed another collection of drawings of the feminine and zoological variety. They are characters that fit within the scope of the standard Disney influenced western animation genre but she does it with a flair that feels fresh and uniquely her. These are not just studies of figures posing, these characer studies actually have character that can be a struggle to capture for many artists.
The confidence of the ink work and fluidity is superb and effortless. She is often not so much drawing as she is creating work of calligraphy. I would even venture to guess that she has had english or chinese calligraphy as part of her past training.
The book its self is only thirty two pages, and seemingly with a lot of negative space, but with one to two figures poised per page it feels a bit like a fashion catalog and very much fitting of the staple bound medium she chose to publish this book.
(Fashionistas come in all sizes and shapes. Mint Corral 1 has even more examples of this.)
Each book is only $9.95, so it's no brainier to get Mint Corral 1 and 2 as a set.
You can also browse some of her original ink drawings, some of which are still available here:
(OMG! look at this horse drawing...I love the balance of black patterns and the way it leads your eye around the drawing. This is one of my favorites and for $60 you now know what to give to the horse / art lover.)