The pencil is mightier than the sword at these exhibitions
SINGAPORE — In the modern age, the popularity of the humble pencil is not at its highest peak.
Designers use computer programmes to create works, while writers have shifted from paper to the screen when they pen their thoughts.
But two artists in town — Salavat Fidai and Jason Polan — are showing why the pencil is still worthy of note.
Russia-born Fidai, renowned for his work as a miniaturist, was in town to open the Game of Thrones A Pencil: Microsculpture Exhibition.
The 45-year-old has drawn on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy world to create sculptures — get this — on the tips of 16 pencils.
The incredibly detailed sculptures, ranging from 2mm to 5mm in diameter, are made with X-Acto knives. And Salavat had to use a microscope in order to work — so small are the sculptures.
He originally worked on tiny paintings on matchboxes.
“I began creating miniature (copies) of Van Gogh paintings ... and those are the ones that became popular first,” he said. He moved on to paintings on sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
In 2014, he was struck by pencil microsculpture works of Sao Paolo-born artist Dalton Ghetti, and got inspired to make pencils his new “canvas”. His first work on a pencil was Darth Vader, which measured 2mm in diameter.
“I broke seven to eight pencil leads before I managed to create a finished miniature,” Mr Fidai said. Asked whether it exists today, and he said that his daughter had dropped it, and it broke.
“She’s still very sorry about it, so now, she doesn’t enter my workroom,” he said.
Over the course of two years, Mr Fidai has carved close to 300 pencil microsculptures as commissions for people, from collectors to galleries. His work can cost as much as US$2,000 per piece.
“There are maybe four or five people around the world who are doing something similar,” he said.
And a simple piece can take eight to 10 hours to complete, but more complex pieces can take weeks.
HBO commissioned Mr Fidai to create sculptures of the Iron Throne, sigils from Houses Stark, Targaryen, Greyjoy, as well as swords and dragons from the hit TV series.
He took four months to complete the sculptures, and names the pesky Iron Throne as the toughest to carve. It took two weeks to complete, and had to go through three versions before it was officially approved by HBO and the K+ gallery here, where the sculptures are being shown.
“Every spike in the throne is (carved) separately. I wanted to make sure each spike was as precise as possible,” he said.
He is now a fan of the Game of Thrones series, and “I have watched all six seasons”, he said.
READY, SET, DRAW
American artist Jason Polan, 34, is on a mission to draw every single person in New York. He is well on his way, and has sketched over 50,000 people from the Big Apple. They appear in a book called Every Person in New York (2015).
Michigan-born Polan, 34, said that he moved to New York in 2008, and drawing was a way to adjust to his crazy new world.
“New York moves at a faster pace than Michigan. I was trying to think of ideas on how I could interact with people in a non-aggressive way,” Mr Polan told TODAY.
Mr Polan, who studied anthropology and art at the University of Michigan, said that helped make “living in a new place more comfortable for me”.
He ended up sketching everyone from cab drivers to celebrities. His chosen tool is — full disclosure here — a Uniball pen. He likes “the tip, and how it makes a nice, bold line”.
Mr Polan was here to promote his collaboration with Japanese clothing brand, Uniqlo. Twenty of his drawings are featured in Uniqlo’s SPRZ NY T-Shirt collection, a collaboration between Uniqlo and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mr Polan’s sketches of pretzels, hamburgers, animals and Japan’s Mount Fuji feature in the designs.
Jason Polan is always armed with his sketching tools, since he feels uncomfortable when he is unable to draw. He is here as part of a Uniqlo collaboration, and will run a kids’ drawing workshop on Saturday (April 22). Photo: Uniqlo
Mr Polan can be described as a quick-sketch artist, since he takes from 10 seconds to 20 minutes to complete a piece.
One of his fastest sketches was of American actress Kristen Wiig. “She was going to an event at Rockefeller Center, and I was walking around when I saw her,” Mr Polan recalled.
He whipped out his sketching tools, and took just 11 seconds to complete the drawing. “I drew her face. She looked kind of silly,” Mr Polan quipped.
In 2010, Ms Wiig saw Mr Polan’s portrait of her online, and got someone to approach him about using the drawing on her own website. Eventually, Mr Polan got to meet Ms Wiig. “She was really nice. I asked her if she would write the foreword (for the book), and she did,” he said.
Mr Polan will be at Uniqlo’s Orchard Central store on Saturday to meet with fans, and to run a full-booked kids’ drawing workshop. It ties in nicely with the fact that his Uniqlo work also includes a kids’ collection.
For the collection, his sketches include works depicting lions and insects. “I would think of things ... when I was little,” he said.
If you catch him on the street, do not be surprised to find him armed with his Uniball pen and a sketchbook. It is how he interacts with the world.
“I was on a trip once with my family, and I felt uncomfortable ... (I realised) I hadn’t drawn that whole day,” Mr Polan said. “I’m always drawing.”
HBO Asia’s Game of Thrones A Pencil: Microsculpture Exhibition by Salavat Fidai is showing at K+ Curatorial Space, and is on until June 4. Admission is free. The series’ seventh season premieres on July 17 on HBO Asia (StarHub TV Ch 601) at 9pm.
The SPRZ NY UT collection (S$14.90 to S$19.90) is available in selected Uniqlo stores and online at www.uniqlo.com/sg. Jason Polan will be at Uniqlo’s flagship store at Orchard Central on April 22 at 4pm to run kids’ drawing sessions.