Mu Pan is definitely not worried about being candid, or sugarcoating his feelings. Equipped with a M.F.A. with honors 2007 Illustration as Visual Essay School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, he makes art that is honest and true to himself. He’s not out to impress you, yet one look at his work and you’ll be an instant fan. Working primarily with oils and watercolors his work is unique and capable of telling a thousand stories. I sit down with Mu Pan to find out how he feels about his art, his creative process, films, and more. Read below for the full interview…
When and how did you begin to see yourself as an artist?
Mu Pan: I make pictures; I started doing it since I was very little. I went to art technical high school in Taiwan, and finished both BFA and MFA in School of Visual Arts, but I never considered myself as an artist.
What do you wish you knew about watercolors before you got started?
Mu Pan: I don’t know anything about watercolor, to me it is just a material and I use that to draw. I consider the way I do watercolor is more like drawing than painting. I do not do sketches either, so basically I do not know anything when I start a piece. I go to my studio every day and start the image from a corner of a piece of blank paper, and just little by little let it to be completed by itself. I think the only thing I know is to keep the feeling of unknown, and that it is the fun of image making.
Do you believe that narrative imagery is still needed in the contemporary art world?
Mu Pan: Yes, that is why people still watch movies.
You mentioned that your art is an extension of how you feel or used as a platform to express yourself. Has there ever been a time when making or buying art changed your life?
Mu Pan: I said that long time ago when I was younger, and I was kind of bullshiting a little bit because that is what people want to read when you write a statement. What do people care about expressing anymore in these days? And what da hell is art any way. I love what I am doing and I am just not willing to work for anybody who does not worth my talent. Let’s say even though you are a CEO of a big company, you still not going to own that company in the end after years of hard work. I just see that it is really foolish to help some people to make a lot of money and you only get the monthly rate, and they can get rid of you once you are no longer needed. I just want to feel good about myself before the moment I die and I won’t have any regrets about how I had lived in these years as Mu Pan.
If this essence is true, how would you like people to evaluate your art from an outsiders perspective?
Mu Pan: I don’t care how they think, just give me the number I want and they can take the work home. I can always make the next one, and the next one is always the best one.
What is the best part about working with watercolors?
Mu Pan: I do not have to clean up as much as oil paint.
Could you tell us a bit about your ‘OrigaMu’ and the process that comes with it?
Mu Pan: When I just graduated from the MFA program, I did plenty unpleasant odd jobs to support myself (even now still). One of the jobs was to help the cancer patients in hospital to make art work while they are waiting for their chemo section. There was a Chinese volunteer lady [who] taught me how to use paper to make flowers, and I was very into it. After that, I started to try all kind of different flowers, and then I moved on birds and other animals. After few months, I mastered the skill and I was able to make any animals and even some historical figures.
I start with head first, and let the figure to develop. It is just like the way I paint and draw, I do not plant and do not sketch. And the rule I gave to my self is I cannot use any supporting material to make the figures stand. That means there is no wire, no wooden sticks, just paper and glue. That is it.
I have not been making them for a while, because it really worsens my eye sight. Also they are hard to store and hard to sell, who wants to spend hundreds of dollars to buy something made by paper? and how to preserve them from dust and humidity?
I am really not proud of origamu, because to me it is just craft making. It is like making shoes or assembling a Lego set, it has not much challenge in my creativity. People like them because they are cute and they are made of paper, and believe me or not I made them when I was watching TV. I will not do it again unless someone will provide me a huge space for an installation and accompany with my drawings, otherwise just let it be the past.
Do you have any favorite Asian films or Anime? Has any movie ever inspired one of your pieces?
Mu Pan: So many, I love movies from around the world. I have many favorite Asian movies from old and new and they all influenced me tremendously. Let’s just narrow it down to Japanese movies here, because it will take the whole page for the list of movies I like. My favorite war movies are Kagemusha, Human Condition, Fire on the Plan and The Thorn of Blood. I love Kobayashi’s Kwaidan and Harakiri; some of Miike’s cult horror ; Beat Takeshi’s yakuza movies; I love all of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s work and I am a huge fan of Zatoichi. I know most people said Ozu is the best, but I really not associate much with his work, but still, I forced myself to see all his movies. For every day people’s stories, I am more into characters like Tora san. I guess I am more like him, rowdy, rude and stupid….that is it, I can talk whole day about movies.
I grew up with watching anime and reading manga, even now I still imagine myself being a Gotchaman ( I am not far from 40). Everybody can easily see my influence from Japanese cinemas and animation through my work, and I like to put the things I like in my images. For example the 47 Ronin piece on my website, you can tell just from the tittle.
I think the way I play around with my influence in my work is like the way Quentin Tarentino does his movies, when you put everything you obsess with in your work and you become your obsession.
Lastly, do you have any advice for any young creative?
Mu Pan: Block your IP when you try to download movies….
Want to keep tabs on Mu Pan’s watercolor creations? Hit up his official site below: