Mu Pan and Other Beasts

[ leer en español ]

Tales of life-and-death struggles between different creatures racing to gobble each other up; battles to survive in which the victims, driven mad by desperation, appear as candidates to be digested. Swarms of insects and other fantastical beasts, beings with human faces and animal bodies, packs of wild creatures, samurai, yakuza and every kind of superhero, pop icons, historical and mythological figures… All of them get in on the action.  

Mu Pan (Taiwan, 1976) launches himself into the affray without the least hesitation. Armed with primordial patience, he sets about populating his field of operations, slapping on hearty doses of humour and irony. Through these packed-out scenes with their threateningly triumphant monsters, he seems to pick fun at the information overload which characterises our present day.

His figures swarm in chaotic movement, a film in which the artist is both script writer and director. The soundtrack is composed of roars and gasps, noises you imagine the artist making in his imagination while he paints. Aaarg! Grrr! Crash! Boom! Whoosh! Bang! Gloop! Ahh! I wonder if there’s a little of Mu Pan himself, transformed into each of his characters to share his perception of the world.

With every terrifying brushstroke he announces where we are and the ruin toward which we’re headed. And what if each character he draws were really a little Mu Pan, raging against a panorama he sees as unjust?

Battles in the world of Mu Pan

Although his artworks are large format, for this Taiwan-born artist a blank sheet of paper and a ball-pen are enough to talk to us about what concerns him: xenophobia, global warming, the manipulation of history…always told by the winners. He reinterprets it, narrating anew and apparently taking certain pleasure in sheer nastiness. The kind of nastiness that feeds on suffering. Mu Pan’s figurative works set out to unmask the evildoers and show them to the world in their true colours.

Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Chinese literature, kaiju monster movies and manga have all had a marked influence on Mu Pan’s work. Hieronymus Bosch has also played a part, whether  directly or indirectly, along with the imagined universes of Henry Darger. Mu Pan’s technique, he says, is rooted in the kind of drawings he made as a child. His hands are skillful and his imagination unlimited; with these he has developed the ability to draw all manner of monstrous creations. But for Mu Pan, the most important thing is that he has managed to conserve the same feeling as when he was five years old: he enjoys himself drawing.

The anchor concept

Mu Pan’s works have a visual anchor around which the whole story is built and from which the battle starts out. As if it were a vector, this point marks the launch pad for an entire story: a creature is defeated and around it, in a game of attraction and repulsion, in movements of persecution and flight, armies of beasts home in on their prey. Along the way, the energy of narrative, the strength and passion for drawing, all burst into view and surge forward; while some characters launch their attack, others are flung into the air or flee in terror.

In these stories, Mu Pan purposely sets out to speak of human nature, no holds barred. Of an animal with basic instincts, a beast no more evolved than our brother, the monkey.

Exhibition: Mu Pan and Other Beasts. Showing until 16 December at Espacio SOLO, Plaza de la Independencia, 5, Madrid.

Photography: Oscar Rivilla

Music: Dr Symptosizer

Art direction: Oscar Rivilla y Carolina Verd

Video postproduction: David Villarubia


Main Picture

Main character: hat, jacket, blouse, pants and shoes by Gucci

Supporting role: jumpsuit by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.

Picture 2

Main character: jacket and pants by La Condesa

Supporting role: jumpsuit by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.