Dec 22, 2006
Review: Bliss Express
Written and edited by Althea Chia, Bliss Express: illustrating happiness presents twenty-one artists takes on the enigmatic and ethereal nature of happiness. Featured artists include such notables as David Choe, Seonna Hong and Yumiko Kayukawa. Bliss Express offers two introductory essasys one by Mark Kingwell, author, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, and astute observer of cultural practice and the other by Eric Nakamura (founder) and Martin Wong (co-editor) of Giant Robot. Kingwell's examination of happiness focuses a laser beam on society's insatiable and perhaps futile quest to manufacture and sell happiness to the masses. Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong make the point that happiness for artists starts with the freedom to express themselves without worry of pleasing an editor, sponsoring patron or other commercial interest. As they label it, indie art, is about blurring the lines between high culture and pop culture -- a much more welcoming, inclusive and deeply personal approach to art than perhaps what has preceded it.
In my quick, brief and definitely incomplete introduction to art books -- there seem to be at least two major approaches -- present the art in a handsome well-designed volume and let the art speak for itself or provided running commentary and analysis more or less on a piece by piece basis.
Bliss Express offers a pleasant hybrid -- the presentation of each artist's work begins with a vignette coalesced by Althea Chia from her back and forth communication with the artist and is sprinkled with the artist's quotes on happiness. The vignettes are effective in provoking a reflection on happiness because they recollect fragments of experience with a minimum of commentary or judgment. The quotes helps to provide a sense of identity to the artist behind the excellent art collected in the book. In a very real sense, Bliss Express presents an introduction to 21 artists from six countires -- each given ample space to display their personality through art and words. Perhaps it's a personal fault but I often worry that a good thing will come to an end rather than appreciating it in the moment. Thus, it's reassuring that each artist's section spans many pages and does not leave viewers (at least this one) wanting. The range and variety of aesthetics presented in Bliss express is welcome and bound to ensure that almost anyone who has even a passing interest in art will be able to quickly pick up the volume and find something enjoyable or stimulating. As well it serves as an excellent introduction to "indie" art with an illuminating focus on a rising core of asian artists.
Bliss Express: Illustrating Happiness is available now in a full-cover 224 page hardcover volume directly from the publisher, Guu Press, with a suggested retail of $39.95 ($54.95 Canadian).
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