Illustrations of Mojo Wang : Desperation, Dejection, and Despair

Shanghai based artist Mojo Wang attempts to exhibit the anguish, torment and deep emotions of loneliness and sorrow by use of his characters that are strikingly bold, vibrant, and often with physical oddities and deformities. Some of his illustrations are kinky and queer and we refrained from adding them here but they too are very novel and refreshing. Mojo’s old work is more accentuated and lavish whereas his latest work available at his website is more monochromatic and narrative. Mojo is very articulate with his creative vision and his approach to art seems to-the-point as he answers some basic questions about himself and his work:

Hello Mojo! Please tell us about yourself:

I’m Mojo Wang living Shanghai for the last 26 years. I became a freelance illustrator after receiving an bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Shanghai University of Engineering in 2011. Currently, I am employed by ‘ELLE MEN’ Magazine as a photo editor for a year.

Mojo Wang illustrations (1)My mother used to send me to “artistic enlightenment” summer camps for drawing and coloring happy animals with colorful crayon when I was 7-8 years old. Besides that, I have not been trained professionally. I am a self-taught illustrator and this upsets me the most. Drawing silly animals, reading and watching movies took the most time out of my childhood. These three hobbies fulfilled a little boy’s imagination of exploring the world without the limitation of reality. Fortunately, one of them grew into a passion and the other two have remained just as hobbies. I like reading and exploring psychology and behavior. The idea of breaking down humanity into pieces and analyzing every single motive behind them is art itself.

Mojo Wang illustrations (2)When did you actually realize that you could be an artist?

There still lacks one specific moment which lead me into the world of art in my life. I never decided to be an artist or illustrator, it just grew on me secretly. But I still remember the first time when I saw Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ on a postcard which was a gift from my father who was a sailor back in 1990s. The fact that someone out there is creating something extraordinarily beautiful with his magic made me wondering if my crayons would create a land of my own imagination more than just happy animals.

Mojo Wang illustrations (2)-2Andy was the only artist I loved like a groupie of some rock band. And of course, Japanese comics were a high point of my puberty. Clamp, a team of cartoonists, was my favorite. Its work affected the way I see the world and shaped me into a weirdo with “twisted” thoughts. (You have to see it yourself: “X”, “RG VEDA”, “CLOVER”, etc.)

What does your art mean to you? Did it shape your personality and vision? Do you have an artist statement?

Well, I think the word statement is too serious for someone like me. Creating something is my way of expressing myself and to understand the truth of life, I wish to be an honest narrator who dedicates all his energy for reaching the harmony of serenity. As someone who is still learning his craft, I truly hope, one day, me and my works would turn out decent, elegant and close to the truth.

Mojo Wang illustrations (3)The effect of my art on me… it made me a good listener and someone who would not take everything too seriously or personally. I mean, I keep my art for my sake as it cultivates me, that’s my passion, and anything else does not matter too much as long as I could keep doing what I’m doing. The distance created by my works keeps me from and the rest of the world in a good way. And believe it or not, my personality is actually joyful to be around with, most of time, not gloomy or dejected.

Mojo Wang illustrations (3)-2Your illustrations are very contemporary and modern. They exhibit the state of mind in a very haunting way. Do people ask you to create pleasing artworks, too?

Frist, thank you for your kind words on my illustrations. Life is not supposed to be serious but definitely contemplative, in my point of view. People do ask me to create pleasing artworks all the time. Clients, friends, anyone who has a glance of my illustrations, immediately wonders whether some part of me is broken or from where those haunting thoughts come from. In contrast, I would like to create a cute story of a rabbit falling in love with a whale, if I can. Those who are capable of bringing joy to people and warm others’ hearts by artworks deserve my respect and admiration. I offer my apology for being the person I am at core. Sadness is my bride, loneliness is her gown. I love this punch line.

Mojo Wang illustrations (4)What equipment / supplies etc. do you mostly use and why?

Pencil, paper, tablet and Manga Studio. Maybe there’s something wrong in my way of drawing, I always wastes tons of paper or canvas to visualize what’s in my mind. It’s just not environment friendly. So, I sketch rough figures on paper and save the rest of work for digital way now. ctrl+z is my best friend… you have no idea how many times I push ctrl+z before I got a finished image.

Mojo Wang illustrations (4)-2Your style seems very agile, lucid and natural. What do you think about it?

Again, thank you for your kind words on my style. I love the idea that even a single line can express the emotion in entirety. Different ways to draw the same glass of water would tell millions and millions stories. My style may look effortless or natural but not lucid yet. It gives me frustration when I just can not deliver what’s in my mind, and believe me, it happens every single day. Thanks to chain-smoking and occasionally drinking “problem”, my hands shaking like a naked monkey in North Pole, which pushes me to practice more on my line work. If you ask me to criticize my own work, I’d say it’s childish and amateur… I have a long way to go.

Mojo Wang illustrations (5)What is your favorite work of your own art?

Every artworks of mine starts with emotion which is reflection on events of life. But, I never kiss and tell. My favorite artwork would always be my next one.

What do you think about contemporary art? How do you view the role and effect of social media?

As someone who has no background of art education, I believe I would absolutely screw up this question. Art should not have boundary or hashtag. Art is a path to freedom, if we put on walls to separate artists based on time or style, to criticize an artist’s way to explore this world and one’s feeling, isn’t it too cruel and arrogant? Why different ways of recording the time of our own should not to be encouraged more? Just imagine the variety of color spinning on the canvas, it would be more fascinating if we are more tolerant to difference.

Mojo Wang illustrations (6)Internet and social media have greatly influenced everything in many levels. Just like computer, television, radio, stream train, etc. The pros and cons of their effects are relative, I don’t think anything created by humans can be termed just positive or negative. Thanks to social media, one don’t need to fly to other side of the planet, knocking door to door to ask if they know anyone who is creating amazing art. But one must realize the choice of flying over the world to knock the doors for seeking great art, is still there.

Mojo Wang illustrations (7)Tell us about your achievements and recognitions, etc:

Can I just delete this humiliating question? (kidding). I don’t think I have achieved anything important enough to be listed here yet. Some small local exhibitions are not worthy mentions. But I do have some trophies on Shooting Match, Determination of radio orientation and Shogi. Does it make me look better?

Mojo Wang illustrations (8)Tell us about your sources of inspiration and favorite stuff:

My favorite artists are Andy Warhol, Claude Weisbuch, Jean Jansem, J.C Leyendecker, Stan Lee, Clamp, James Jean, Toshi Saeki. My favorite books are L’Etranger, Walden, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Never Let Me Go, The Cement Garden…

Say something to our readers:

Please read more books, and be patient to find your own true voice. Hold on to it even if it’s not flattering.

Mojo Wang illustrations (9)All images © Mojo Wang : Behence | Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram


About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.