California-based artist Ken Flewellyn‘s work is an interpretation of how cultures interact in modern society. Flewellyn’s realist style redefines the traditional Japanese woman, putting sneakers on her feet and a boombox in her hands. His oil paintings emphasize the versatility of urban identity through contrasting subject matter, yet exude the creative harmony that permeates Far Eastern art.
Flewellyn’s decisions regarding perspective are carefully tailored in order to highlight the key elects of each of his pieces. Rarely do we see the face of our subject; instead we focus on her hands or her feet, which tell stories of their own. In the background, many of the women are draped in traditional Japanese fabric, thus adopting the tranquility of the garment patterns. However, this quietude is interrupted by the rest of the piece, which often shows the woman unabashedly acknowledging her Western character. She has spunk and an attitude, defying her seemingly timid exterior and giving her a confidence taken straight from hip-hop. “Express Yourself”, a particularly engaging piece, speaks for itself.
The nuances Flewellyn captures in his close-ups give us crucial insight into the contradictory aspect of a given character. A nozzle of a can of spray paint, held down by a manicured finger, is a picture of urban resistance and a display of elegance at the same time. Chunky bling, dangling over kimono-clad shoulders, is another example, as are the tattoos peeking out from behind folds of red silk. Red is lavish, the color of lust, and its abundance in Flewellyn’s work further brings out that unperturbed confidence I mentioned earlier. In Los Angeles, where Ken lives, cultural boundaries are virtually nonexistent, and he conveys a self-made Angeleno mentality through his meshing of the traditional and the contemporary.
In his art, Ken Flewellyn steps right into the middle of a culture clash, puts down the swords, and transforms it into a wedding, tilting and zooming into his subjects to give the audience a unique view of cultural identity. His paintings are like snapshots of what would happen if TheGreat Gatsby and “Mi Vida Loca” met at a Kyoto teahouse for an afternoon of fun and Matcha.