Animation Art

Kongkee Resurrects an Ancient Chinese Poet in an Energetic Cyberpunk Vision of Asian Futurism

March 20, 2023

Grace Ebert

A vibrant work featuring an oversized person whose head is primarily submerged in water, with two cats sitting on top

“The Tears” (2020). All images © Kongkee, courtesy of the artist and Penguin Lab, shared with permission

The story of the legendary Chinese poet Qu Yuan ends in tragedy. Living during the destructive Warring States period that ran from 481 to 221 BCE, Qu Yuan was an influential writer and politician who was banished by King Huai of Chu and subsequently spent much of his time traveling the country and working on verse. The life of exile didn’t suit the poet, though, leading him into a deep depression and toward his eventual suicide in the Miluo River. Created as a hunt to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body, the annual Dragon Boat Festival continues to this day in celebration of his legacy.

A forthcoming exhibition at Chicago’s Wrightwood 659 imagines the poet’s afterlife “as his soul journeys from the ancient Chu Kingdom to a retro-futuristic Asia where he is reborn as an android in a psychedelic cyberpunk landscape.” Melding history with a distinctive sci-fi vision, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk features works in several mediums by the London-based Chinese animator and artist Kong Khong-chang, known as Kongkee. Using videos, projections, installations, ancient objects, and graphic pieces, the artist explores Asian Futurism through the energetic and luminously rendered narrative of a Chinese icon.


A vibrant work of a person standing with their back to the viewer as they look at a vivid green-washed cityscape

“Time Traveller” (2018)

An extension of a comic series Kongkee created back in 2013, the show considers existential questions of immortality, how the body and soul interact, and the tenuous relationship between humanity and machine. Bold, saturated colors emphasize the role of the digital in the visionary realm, while mountain ranges, clouds, and vast starry skies incorporate more natural and classical motifs that have existed for millennia. Rippled waves and water feature prominently, referencing Qu Yuan’s drowning in 278 BCE.

Although based on a life of immense suffering, Kongkee’s works are optimistic as he envisions a universe where redemption and reconciliation are possible. The artist shares in a statement:

I asked myself, what happens when a soul emerges after 2,000 years from underwater—does it seek out something new? Does it return to familiar places? Qu Yuan’s poetry has a psychedelic, wandering quality that I tried to reflect in my art, but I also wanted him to reflect the disorientation, as well as the hope, of our era.

Following its U.S. debut at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk opens in Chicago on April 14 and will be on view until July 15. Find more from the artist on Instagram.


A portrait of a woman-cyborg with her face revealing her machine brain against a green backdrop

“The Singer” (2018)

A portrait of a vibrant cyborg figure with radiant beams surrounding its head and a city in the background

“Dragon’s Delusion vinyl cover” (2021)

A portrait of a person holding a mask with several renditions of the figure and cyborgs in the backdrop

“Dragon’s Delusion—Departure poster” (2017)

A vibrant work peering up at a shirtless man in front of a building with a night sky above

“Qu Yuan, Dragon’s Delusion—Assassination” (2018)

A vibrant depiction of a city nestled in the mountains

“The 25th Hour” (2018)

A spliced work depicting a ship up top and a cyborg with illuminated eye beams below

“The Pier” (2018)





A Mysterious Presence in the Forest Grapples with Change in Guldies’s Stop-Motion Animation ‘MITOSIS’

March 7, 2023

Kate Mothes

In his latest stop-motion animation, Alexander Unger, who works as Guldies (previously), presents an idiosyncratic tale set in a nighttime forest. “MITOSIS” follows the transformation of a pine cone into an anthropomorphized log, which in turn morphs into timber, crates, and an idyllic cabin in the woods. Yet an eccentric presence lurks amongst the trees that, frustrated by the changes, confronts their new neighbor and inadvertently prompt the entire cycle to begin again.

“MITOSIS” takes inspiration from the biological process by which a cell produces two identical nuclei in preparation for cell division. It took Unger one year to complete the work, which incorporates 4,425 individual photos. Find more of Guldies’s work on Instagram and YouTube.


All images © Guldies



Animation Art Illustration

Everyday Objects Swirl in the Dizzying Choreography of Alain Biet’s Elaborate Animation

March 2, 2023

Kate Mothes

Items you might find on a shelf in the garage or packed away in the basement—like wrenches, your old MP3 player, key fobs, or spare light bulbs—become stars in their own right in Alain Biet’s mesmerizing animation. “Grands Canons,” which translates from French to “Big Guns,” opens with a close-up of the artist drafting a realistic, green pencil in watercolor. Once the rendering is complete, we meet another pencil, and another, as a “visual symphony” of thousands of precise drawings unfolds.

Biet’s intricately detailed illustrations highlight everyday objects we might find in a junk drawer, a closet, or even destined for the trash, emphasizing a variety of styles and how items have evolved over time. His survey of technology and tools stokes a tinge of nostalgia, too. Remember that old Discman, SLR camera, or Nokia brick? The gang’s all here in a dizzyingly choreographed sequence, accompanied by an original score that responds to the rhythms and movements of the drawings as they skitter and whirl across the surface.

Find more of the artist’s work his website and Instagram.


All images © Alain Biet

An animated image of illustrations of kitchen utensils from an animated short film by Alain Biet of thousands of aquarelle paintings of everyday objects.

A still of illustrations of pliers from an animated short film by Alain Biet of thousands of aquarelle paintings of everyday objects.

A animated image of keys and locks from an animated short film by Alain Biet of thousands of aquarelle paintings of everyday objects.

A still of illustrations of lightbulbs from an animated short film by Alain Biet of thousands of aquarelle paintings of everyday objects.



Animation Craft Design

An Adorable Hand-Crafted Totoro Collection Celebrates the Studio Ghibli Icon

February 27, 2023

Grace Ebert

A photo of wooden Totoro sculptures

All images courtesy of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten

The iconic round-bellied Totoro of Studio Ghibli’s (previously) My Neighbor Totoro stars as part of a broad array of new collectible ephemera paying homage to the anime icon. Created by teams of craftspeople connected to Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, the series translates the fluffy, two-dimensional character into adorable wooden sculptures made of camphor, the tree Totoro occupies in the film. Paired with textiles, ceramic works, and paper boxes all featuring the character, the collection follows the highly anticipated opening of Ghibli Park late last year, giving fans of Hayao Miyazaki another opportunity to enjoy his beloved animations.

The Totoro objects will be available through a lottery opening on March 1—find details on how to join on the Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten site. Watch the video below  and visit Spoon & Tamago for more insight into the process behind the collection and an upcoming opportunity to view a live demonstration.


A still of a hand painting a wooden Totoro sculpture

Four video stills of a man working in a woodshop to create Totoro sculptures, with one frame featuring the completed character

A still of a hand painting a Totoro rendering on paper

Four photos of ceramics, plates, textiles, and t-shirts featuring the Totoro character

A still of hands carving a wooden Totoro character



Animation Art

Mesmerizing Paper Sculptures and Animations by Zai Divecha Convey the Subtlety of Change

February 10, 2023

Grace Ebert

An animated gif of white paper scultpures

All images © Zai Divecha, courtesy of Heron Arts shared with permission

In Phase Shift, San Francisco-based artist Zai Divecha (previously) translates the illusion of movement to monochromatic paper works. Her solo show, which runs from February 25 to March 25 at Heron Arts, features animations and sculptures that reference early stop-motion devices like zoetropes and phenakistoscopes. Both rely on sequential formations to imply progression, a technique the artist utilizes in her analog pieces that convey gradual changes.

Divecha is known for her singular use of white paper, which draws the viewer’s eye toward the texture, dimension, and depth of her works and the way they capture light and shadow. Mounted on flat planes, the pieces consider that “what we might see as static is actually changing incrementally over time.”

For more of Divecha’s multi-disciplinary works, visit her site and Instagram.


A photo of white paper sculptures in a sequence

A photo of white paper sculptures in a sequence

An animated gif of a paper box rolling

A photo of white paper sculptures

A photo of white paper sculptures

A photo of white paper sculptures in a sequence

A photo of white paper sculptures in a sequence

A detail photo of white paper sculptures in a sequence




João Gonzalez’s Animated Short ‘Ice Merchants’ Follows a Cliff-Jumping Father and Son

January 9, 2023

Grace Ebert

A frigid and precarious tale, the beautifully animated short film “Ice Merchants” by João Gonzalez follows a father and son as they harvest and sell ice. The pair live on a cliff-side home and dive from their balcony each day, allowing their parachutes to deliver them and their product safely to the village market below. When temperatures rise, though, the ropes that tether their house to the mountain begin to fray.

Gonzalez, who also performed and composed the accompanying soundtrack, created “Ice Merchants” in a minimal, illustrated style similar to his award-winning “Nestor” and “The Voyagers.” He shares about the film: “Something that has always fascinated me about animation cinema is the freedom it offers us to create something from scratch. Surrealistic and bizarre scenarios and realities can be used as a metaphorical tool to talk about something that is common to us in our more ‘real’ reality.”

The full film was recently released on The New Yorker’s YouTube, and you can follow the Portuguese director on Instagram to stay up-to-date with future projects.


An animated image of a father and son chopping ice and jumping from a cliff

A still of a father and son cliff jumping

An animated image of a boy swinging

A still of a father and son at home with a fire

A still of a son peering over the edge of an icy cliff