28 Jun 2017

Mighty Jaxx Features: All things Tempura-ry with Chong Wah, the Man behind Tempura San

We talked to artist Chong Wah about the recent release of Super Kaiju Corps’ Tempura-San to pick his brain about his life as an artist and the design process of the tiny fella that looks delicious enough to be served on a plate!

So first things first. Out of so many food choices, why a shrimp tempura!
It all started with my obsession for Japanese food at a young age. I was intrigued by how visually stimulating it was when the restaurants dished out the food on conveyor belts and was especially drawn to the shrimp tempura! I remember how fascinating the texture and elongated shape of the tempura was to me then, resembling a strange creature of some sort. That said, I must admit, I was probably hooked to the taste more than anything when I bit into it for the first time!

In addition, my exposure to Japanese manga and kaiju culture also plays a part in the exaggerated and humorous elements of the character I’ve created. The intentional exclusion of dialogues in my manga gives the audience room to interpret as well.

 

"As a kid, I was already actively drawing things that revolved around strange subjects."

 

This is the first toy figure you’ve created, am I right? What other forms of art/design works were you practising before working on Tempura-San with us? 
Yes, this would be the first toy I’ve created! Being a toy collector, I have always been fascinated with the works of Yamomark, RealHead and Gumtaro, so I am always curious about how an idea can come alive in a physical form. When Mighty Jaxx approached me to do a collaboration, it was a no-brainer for me!

As a kid, I was already actively drawing things that revolved around strange subjects. From vandalising politicians on my social studies textbook to getting paid for violent depictions of ‘Aliens vs Predators’ on scrap paper that I could sell for fifty cents a piece. Stepping into adulthood, the need to create things that actually serve a purpose became more apparent. Thus, fast forwarding to present day, I am happily slaving day and night as a graphic designer.

Talking about your art practices, you seem to have a separate identity as a graffiti artist “Krome”. Would you say it’s similar to Tempura-San who lives in a universe parallel to ours? And do tell us more about your alias “Krome”!
I’m constantly on the lookout for different mediums as my creative outlet. When I saw my friend “KRINGE” tackling huge walls with his artworks, I was immediately drawn to it! Having set my sights on being a graffiti artist, I needed to come up with an alias to work as and the name “KROME” was derived from a scene in the movie Mad Max. “You will ride eternal shiny and chrome!” was an exchange of words between characters Immortan Joe and Nux in the film which was pretty much where I got the idea to paint as the alias “KROME”.

Tempura-San is motivated to go on with life despite his defective appearance, striving to do better with his tempura stall and find his place in an unjust world. In a way, I think we are pretty alike (aside from the defective part, I hope!), as graffiti definitely helped to push me as an artist to create works that are larger than life, ultimately defining my creative path.

And who knows, one day you just might spot Tempura-San up on the wall right next to “KROME”!

Looking through your Instagram, I can see that skateboarding makes up a huge part of your life. In what way does it influence your style of work?
Definitely! Skateboarding has a huge influence on me, from coming up with crazy ideas to my music choice. The somewhat abstract and uncontrolled nature of skateboarding creates something very desirable to me. I guess you can say that the idea of not conforming to society’s needs is “romanticising” to me and its very nature keeps me sane as a creative individual.

Check out more of Chong Wah’s illustrations and graffiti works here.

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