If pop culture, iconic super heroes, and custom sneakers are things that you live for, this is one art show you won’t want to miss. Earlier this week, I caught up with two young Canadian artists living in Taipei, Themba Child and Kenrick Currie, and their manager, Patrick Lubon, to talk about their art show on January 16, 2009.
Both artists are professed ‘Sneakerheads’, ardent collectors of rare, vintage, or collectable Jordan or Dunk sneakers.
It didn’t take long for Themba Child, an Ottawa native, to discover his passion for sneakers. He has been collecting for years and has some thirty pairs of sneakers in his collection. Kenrick Currie also collects sneakers, especially Nike and Adidas.
This week, in their sneaker-strewn studios in Taipei, Themba and Kenrick are feverishly getting ready for their upcoming art show, That’s Art, Folks, which kicks off this Saturday at the Xinyi Public Assembly Hall in Taipei. The show is is centered on Star Wars characters and their sneakers. Expect to see your favorite characters, with the likes of Yoda, Jabba the Hut, Darth Vader, and C3P0 all sporting their favorite one-of-a-kind sneakers.
So, what is it about these kicks? Read on to find out…
MSW: Thanks for meeting with me, guys. I’d like to start by getting each of you to tell us a little about yourself?
Themba: I’ve always loved drawing and sketching. Even when I was a kid, I used to love drawing my own Saturday morning cartoons. I came to Taiwan at the end of 2003 for a change. I taught for a while, and then I went home for six months. When I came back, I was determined to do something with my art. I met a girl who was majoring in Chinese art, and she helped me find a teacher. He agreed to take me on, so for months, that was my life. I would come home and I’d practice painting trees, rocks, mountains, whatever I’d learned in class that day.
In the meantime, I’ve also been exploring art through my love for pop culture, especially comics, video games, and fashion. So, I started creating art that combines my love for running shoes and superheroes.
Kenrick: I’m originally from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. I drew a lot when I was a kid, especially in kindergarten class. I remember spending the whole class drawing battle scenes with Transformers and GI Joe and little lasers.
This affinity for art naturally progressed through grade school and high school. I was a member of the school art club in grade school and I was one of the students chosen to do a wall mural for our school. Later, I went to Westford Collegiate for the Arts, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We focused on everything from lettering to life anatomy and graphic design. The skill I value the most is what I learned to do with Adobe Illustrator.
I was accepted into George Brown College of Art and I moved straight into second year classes because I’d already covered everything that was taught to first year students. I decided not to do third year. I ended up learning the stuff that I wanted to learn by myself and that is what I’m doing today.
While I was in college, I was working on a clothing line called Borobrand. I was designing graphics for custom T-shirts and getting them printed. Everything I learned then is what I’m using in my work right now. I came to Taiwan just over a year ago in order to do clothing design. I design graphics and logos for T-shirts.
Patrick: I have known Themba since high school; we’ve been best friends for about 16 years. The one thing that glues us together is our sense of humor. That is the aspect of the art that is most important to us and what we hope people appreciate and enjoy when they view the art.
I met Kenrick at our first art show and he was very interested in collaborating, so it just progressed from there.
Themba: I’ve always dreamed of being a T-shirt designer. A little while ago, I drew some designs to get some T-shirts made. My friend and I sat down and tried to come up with some logos and names for our designs. Then one day, it just came to me out of the blue, Bulletproof Toast. The original logo is a drawing of a piece of toast. It’s standing up and all these arrows are bouncing off its chest.
I showed it to my friend, and he said, “It’s perfect. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s perfect. I’m thinking of a soft piece of toast, but I’m breaking my teeth on it.”
Patrick: I’ve always encouraged Themba to pursue his art. We originally started talking about the company when we couldn’t find any cool T-shirts, so Themba was going to design them and I would do the marketing. The idea evolved into art and it was just natural for me to do the behind-the-scene work.
MSW: How do you think Asia has inspired you? Has your art taken on more of an Asian influence?
Kenrick: At home, I had to focus more on my job than my artwork. Here, it’s all about my art. I don’t think my art has taken on more of an Asian influence, but I am inspired by a lot of things I see here. People and their fashion sense here, it’s amazing. There is nothing holding you back from what you want to wear.
Fashion is a huge influence. I’m a Sneakerhead as well, although I don’t have near the collection that Themba does.
Themba: Yes, I’d say Asia influences my artwork otherwise I wouldn’t be studying Chinese painting and calligraphy.
Chinese art is about being perfect. If you make a mistake, it’s there and you have to live with it. In oil painting, you can paint over it and with sketching, you can erase it. It doesn’t need to be perfect. But I’ve learned through my own artwork that some mistakes can be beautiful.
Before I would strive to make the perfect piece of art, but now I’m leaning towards something rawer. When something is perfect, it’s like you’re saying this is exactly what it is. I admire the technique and talent that goes into making the perfect image, but sometimes, I like provoking a deeper response with my artwork. I like the freedom of doing my own thing.
MSW: Would you consider yourself global artists? How do you mesh art with traveling?
Themba: I love retro art shows that feature all the things I grew up with, like the Karate Kid, old arcade games like Double Dragon, or old commercials with Trix Rabbit. No matter where I am, I’m always thinking about what I was doing as a child, and that’s where my artwork comes from. I need to be in an urban center, I need to be able to connect with the things that I love. That isn’t going to happen at a little village in Thailand. I can’t say for sure. It might change, you never know.
Kenrick: I work on my computer, so I can work from wherever I am. I would like to be able to take off to Japan or some other exotic place and have money wired into my account when I’m finished my work. That’s what I’m doing in Taipei right now. I am living my dream.
Themba: I’m not living that dream yet, but I’m working towards it. That’s what this show is about. When I think about putting together these shows, I envision artists, photographers, writers, DJs, chefs, everyone working together and participating to make it a success. This is a small way to start my dream, but it’s a start. That’s what I dream about.
MSW: Tell me about your art show on Saturday.
Themba: Well, to tell you about this show, I have to tell you a little about my first show in August 2009. It was about running shoes. Each collage featured a super-hero wearing a custom pair of shoes and a comical write-up about why he bought the shoes.
I thought I’d make a 3D shoe and that’s where Kenrick comes in. I asked him if he could take the shoe that I designed and turn it into a 3D design, and he did it. It’s pretty amazing.
I want people to see that shoe and think the same thing they’d be thinking if they were holding the first pair of Air Jordans. I want people to see it and think, “Holy shit! I gotta have it.”
This show is about Star Wars, the original Star Wars. Every character is wearing a custom pair of shoes, which are based on the colors that they wear in the movies. For example, this shoe is predominantly black with a red stripe. It represents Darth Vader and his red light saber. Here’s a gold shoe for C-3P0…
MSW: Wow! So, Kendric, Themba gave you the design and you redesigned it into a 3D figure on your computer. Tell me about that.
Kenrick: Well, it took a long time. He gave me a rough sketch and I had to redraw it. I enjoyed it, because I love sneakers, especially Nike and Adidas. I like anything that has really nice lines. Nike actually has architects working on their shoes, and every shoe they put out is a work of art. And, of course, you can wear them. It’s a classic example of form and function. So, that’s what I did with the designs for the show.
MSW: That sounds really cool. So, how did you to decide to work on this show together?
Kenrick: I was at Themba’s last show. I thought his work was amazing, so I bought one of his paintings. I was really inspired by his work, so I did a 3D model of his shoe out of felt. I cut out all the individual pieces and built it up. Now it’s a slipper. Imagine being able to wear your favorite sneakers as slippers around in the house. You’ll see 3D models of each sneaker at the show. The next time I saw him, I suggested doing an art show together.
MSW: What’s your approach to your artwork?
Themba: Well, I love it. When we see each other’s work, we can’t help but think how wicked it is. When Kendrick sees my drawings, I know he really appreciates what I do. And of course, when someone buys a piece, I know they really get what I’m trying to say.
When I’m creating, I’m just intent on finishing it. Once it’s all over, the weight is off my shoulders. Sometimes it’s really easy to get sidetracked, though. There are so many things I like doing, so many ways I want to express myself. I love Chinese painting, but I’ve had to put it aside in order to get everything finished.
Kenrick: I’m a big procrastinator, so I’m only thinking about this show right now. I’ve left everything to the last minute, but that’s when I work best.
MSW: So what’s next for you two? Most importantly, what is it about these kicks?
Kenrick: I would really like to do more sneaker-themed shows.
Themba: Yeah, me too. The different thing about these shoes is that some of these guys only make 50 pairs of these shoes. When I see them, I’m all like, “Oh, where do I get that shoe? No way! There are only fifty pairs of these shoes! Getting my hands on a pair of those would be the best thing ever!”
With our artwork, you’ve always a pair of your favorite sneakers within reach.