David Jien‘s paintings are a surreal pop mash of everything from Persian manuscripts to sci-fi, cultural politics to mysticism and Chaucer to Roald Dahl. It’s about as weird as you’re going to find anywhere. His paintings are predominantly narrative based and you’ll often find the same characters popping up in numerous compositions whether it be knights on horseback, Japanese samurai’s – at least I think that’s what they are – or blue Humpty Dumpty lookalikes from a far distant planet.
What’s more his scenarios are pretty graphic. Once you get past the style, his aesthetic, you’ll realise that these aren’t just pretty pictures, rather they’re full of graphic scenes of violence, sex and aliens looking after large gem stones. All subjects that have much about the society and culture in which we live (except for the aliens).
In some ways Jien’s work is a distillation of global culture. He himself is a first generation Taiwanese – American who started his artistic life tagging on the streets of LA, spent a bit of time in jail and is now a fully fledged art school graduate. This intermingling of cultures, values, myths, histories, TV and art history all come to life in his compositions.
His style is flat, almost digital looking, his colours vivid, bold and framed in large contrasting blocks and on initial viewing I’d say the work is fun but it isn’t. It only gives the appearance of lightness. Rather Jien is describing an alternate world that mirrors our own. And it’s not a particularly pleasant place to be.