In late 2015 Austin’s Mondo Gallery held their final exhibit of the year, ‘Originals: A Fine Art Show.’ The concept was simple but new to the film poster heavy gallery — an exhibit entirely of original art free of existing characters and the world of pop culture. Like most of the artists featured in the event illustrator Kevin Tong works mostly digital, using more traditional tools like pen and paper for early sketches and drawn pieces to be scanned and arranged in pixels for gig posters and film inspired prints. An original from Tong up until this point had been limited to drawings used for larger works.
Tong’s drawing, ‘Amor Fati,’ finds a hiker and his dog walking along the shore, the fallen statues of ancient soldiers left to erode in the ocean. It’s a beautiful moment — one legacy builds on another. It is not a scene of a pain or loss or even of war, but of a calm interconnectivity. The statues were erected by a long dead people, the hiker will be long dead and his grave will be just another stone monument on a future someone’s path.
The original ‘Amor Fati‘ did not remain a singular work after the exhibit closed — it was turned into a two color screenprint and sold in limited quantity. As a craftsman Tong’s greatest skill lies in his ability to push the limitations of what screenprinting can accomplish. The drawing, however incredible it is on its own, gained added depth and mood when turned into printed paper. The blankness between the soldiers becomes a vivid ocean — the figures themselves, illuminated, turned mighty. With only two colors ‘Amor Fati‘ is given a new and different life.
‘Amor Fati,’ a title which translates roughly to ‘a love of one’s fate,’ might owe its name to writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, a writer Tong has been inspired by in his past print work. In The Gay Science Nietzsche wrote —
“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”
Tong brings this sentiment to the page in subtle conversation — his ‘Amor Fati‘ finds what is beautiful in the necessary events of life. Time passes. Things die. What was once holy is not ignored or tossed off as fraudulent, but exists, still, in a state of natural decay. The viewer can see themselves as either the immortalized soldiers and Gods or as the hiker. The dog. The ocean. They are all the same in the scope of our shared future. Amor fati.
Previously on Evil Tender —
Interview: Illustrator Kevin Tong at Mondo SXSW
Interview: The Focused Illustrations of Kevin Tong