Painted in vibrant colors on giant canvases and featuring laughing male figures with stylized traits,
they are mainly the artist’s self-portraits presented either as a single figure or replicated endlessly to form a mob of clones doubled over in hysterics.These unsettling figures appear in grotesque poses, creating a kind of tension straddling lightheartedness, absurdity and exaggeration, which, through repetition and variation, offer endless possibilities and have made his work both powerful and subtle. At first glance, his images look happy and amusing, but we can’t get away from an underlying sense of uneasiness – his blue skies and bubblegum-pink faces soon turn into something sinister and we realize that the subjects of his paintings are laughing at something they really shouldn’t be laughing at, like a mass execution.
Placed in ludicrous, improbable, comic or tragic situations, we find these figures grinning from ear to ear
The atmosphere may be celebratory, but Yue’s images often evoke the idea of war or death.
We are plunged into a cartoon-like world where anything is possible and absurdity is the norm. But Yue doesn’t provide any clues as to what is going on in his paintings featuring unusual image associations in which every sign remains open to interpretation. With their eyes closed and mouths wide open, the painted or sculpted faces display the rigidity of impenetrable masks, putting up a barrier to block any attempt at interiority, instead reflecting whatever the viewer wants to see in them: a caricature of Chinese society’s homogenization, a way of “grinning and bearing it” in an irrational world or a form of self-derision on the part of the artist.
The act of smiling and laughing to mask feelings of helplessness held great significance for his generation.
Idealised and glorified it borders on being slightly unsettling. The figures captured look flushed and healthy, often as the most perfect version of themselves.
Capturing the essence of obsession as the perfect world you create in your mind. Obsession takes over your mind. It blinds you and all you can see and on your mind is that one thing you are obsessed about. Thinking and fantasising about it fills you up and you would find yourself grinning just thinking about it.
Obsession is a fantasy you make up of people and places as you like them to be. It takes over your mind and body and you start to lose yourself. Trapped in this idyllic state, you feel a sense of happiness but one that is intoxicating. This is obsession.
Masking this fake idyllic state with the huge grins plastered across the faces of the playful characters who seem to be in a state of euphoria, it evokes a sense of uneasiness leaving viewers question if what they see is actually joy or just a happy facade.
never-never land | colour palette
The saturated colour palette used and the rendering which involves the use of white highlights to suggest this gummy and glossy, fake world contributes to suggesting the idea of a fantasy that you find yourself lost and trapped in.
never-never land | process
never-never land | user profile
never-never land | mock-up
Varoom is only published bi-annually?? by the AOI (Association of Illustrators) which is the professional body for illustration in the UK that actively advocates for illustration as a profession. Established in 1973, the AOI champions illustrators and the illustration industry with education, promotion and campaigning
to achieve a thriving industry for us all.
TheAOI provides contract and business support to illustrators. They champion the rights of illustrators, and run competitions and events, promoting and encouraging commercial and ethical standards within the industry, to improve the standing of illustration as a profession.
Varoom is trying to clear the common misconception people have of illustration is that it is one-dimensional. However, Varoom subject-matter helps us understand that all wider-world ideas are equally as pertinent to illustration as other creative disciplines.
Olivia Ahmad, the new editor, explains that the definition of what illustrators do is expanding all the time. Whether the work is personal or commissioned, an illustrator’s unique voice is always embedded in the work, even a tight brief to advertise a product can tell us a lot about society and what is considered desirable Illustrators have a toolkit of largely unrecognised skills that are essential for coming up with the images for which they are commissioned.
There are infinite potentials for the application of drawing, illustration and illustrative thinking. However in the 1990s, the illustration industry took a bad turn with rapid technological advancements resulting in ubiquitous design software being used to create images that took space from illustrators. Nonetheless, illustration has remained resilient and commissioners are increasingly seeing the value of an illustrator’s distinctive visual language, especially “now that all our daily lives are flooded with photographs and other media competing for our attention.” It seems certain that there will be exciting progressions in the field of illustration and Varoom offers an essential platform where illustrator’s can demonstrate their abilities.
Varoom’s Obsession issue – an issue about Obsessive practice, Obsessed with Neon, Obsessed with Ladybird, Obsessed with Outsider Artists who are Obsessed with One Thing or another. Writer Linda Scott observes that East End Outsider Artist Madge Gill would paint, knit and sew while in a delirious trance, whilst in possession of her spirit guide Myrninterest. While Barcelona illustrator Mr Mourao says in the We’re Lost In Pictures feature, “The main goal is to draw as much detail as possible so that the viewer gets sucked in and gets lost in the drawing.”
PIGS! BAHAMAS! CUCUMBER! SWIMMING!
These were the few words that popped up in my head when tasked to fill up the word list.
BRING ME TO BAHAMAS!!! My dream would be to move to the Bahamas where I can swim
with my pigs in the Exumas, Pig Island. I will harvest cucumbers from my cucumber garden
and fish my own seafood and enjoy chirashi don everyday.
Okay, so with these few key words in mind, I began doodling and making some sketches.
As I have in mind for my self portrait to be humorous, I decided to play with exaggeration
and also worked around a rather warm and vivid colour palette.
One of my favourite illustrators. His illustrations makes you slightly uncomfortable yet draws
you in. Strangely appealing with a humorous touch.
I wanted my self portrait to exude the same feel–through the juxtaposition of things and also
the the exaggeration of certain features.
First thing I did was to get my face right. I wanted to include my face in my composition as
I think I have pretty iconic facial features.
I have three black holes on my face, erm four to be exact if you’d count my face in but wait
nope,my face is a square. My nostrils are really perfect circles and I can fit 3 gummy worms
in each hole. The biggest hoe is my mouth, which is able to hold 28 grapes. My friends say
that my face is like a loaf of bread as my left dimple–which I’d refer to as a cave (able to hold
two grains of basmati rice), squeezes my cheeks out making my face swell. Oh and my tongue
is the strongest muscle and perhaps the muscle I use most frequently, not sure if thats a good
thing. I can hold on to my chewed food while laughing and it does not budge, it’s just like a
Now I’m stuck. With my face done, I have no idea how to include the rest of the elements,
namely–the pigs, bahamas as well as the cucumbers and as I did not want to include entire
body in I decided to move on.
Here’s the next sketch (incomplete too) I did!
Working around the idea of “Pig in human suit”. I have here my pig head, my little soul and
my human body suit. As I detest toes and feet in general, I changed my foot into a hand. Also,
all my illustrations only have four fingers as I feel like the human hand looks better with an even
number of fingers.
However, I am still not satisfied with this layout as I felt that the elements still look very isolated
and there is something lacking that is not gelling this piece together. Also, the ‘monochromatic’
colour palette isn’t working here as it just appears rather flat and not creating any visual interest.
It’s not working outtttttt. I need another plan. I decided to go back to the Bahamas (i want to
go there), and created a scene so that my composition would be more cohesive.
So here’s my final self porktrait!
Working around the face I drew earlier, I morphed myself into a mother pig with my little piglets swimming beside my on the island. Behind, are cucumbers that I have drawn to resemble cacti.
I really enjoyed this assignment as I am given full freedom and artistic licence to drive the
direction of this project. I had great fun drawing some of my favourite things in the world.
Looking forward to the next assignment!