Feminine and futuristic collide in the colorful work of Coco Khan. Combining different artistic techniques, this maker is not merely indulging in escapism, but helping to fill a void in our world, through both handmade visuals and musical creations.
What has your journey been like as an artist?
Art has always been a form of escapism for me, since I was very young. I never formally studied art, it's something I always just did, was drawn to. In fact, what I ended up studying was law, at which point art became a supreme escapism, a way to balance my mind. To this day, I'm bound to both paths— to the legal world, out of a deep desire to engage critically with the law and with our common understandings of social justice; as well as to the art world, from a need to create and to connect with people in a completely different, vastly less formal dimension.
How do you feel like your work as an artist and musician overlap? Do you feel like one influences the other?
In both cases, I don't think ahead too much, things come together in process. In that way, methodologically, my music and art are similar, as both are highly intuitive. Even though they are distinct mediums in terms of results, both originate in the same place and carry a similar spatial essence. I see all my work as intertwined. My Cocobeurre project is a channel for experimentation through sound and art. It's underpinned by the ethos of absolute liberation of the mind, from form, from tradition, from preconceptions.
One distinction between the art and music is that my visual artworks evolve through a rather solitary process, where as playing music has always been something collaborative for me.
I love the symbiosis of playing in a duo especially, and have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredibly talented and inspirational people all my life.
Your images are very bright and somewhat futuristic. Where do you gain inspiration?
Probably like most artists I am attentive and sensitive to things & people around me, my sensory filters get overwhelmed easily and I tend to experience things very intensely, so in that respect existence itself is a strong inspiration. Also, I am drawn to creators that I would say, capsize - Louise Bourgeois, Tina Turner, Pedro Almodovar, Frida Kahlo, Augusta Savage, Anais Nin, James Baldwin, Arpita Singh, Silver Apples, Nina Simone, Glenn Gould....they all share a gravitas, a distinctive boldness that absolutely hypnotizes. I think the bright and futuristic aspect of my work stems from my fascination for outer space and the natural world, and my perpetual compulsion towards escapism & the phantasmagorical.
In three words, how would you describe your work?
dream pop art
You've lived in so many places, from Berlin to Shanghai and now Montreal. Do you think that being surrounded by so many different cultures has an effect on your creations?
Certainly traversing cultures all my life has shaped my perspective and continues to transform me. Most importantly, I think that these experiences have propelled me to play with and distort various boundaries, like the segregative concepts of otherness, tradition, knowledge, discipline, outside and inside. Embracing new spaces nurtures a strong sense of independence and freedom. On an inspirational level, the sights and aural textures of cities, crowds, and seashores have often been foundational to many of my works. World citizenship is such a powerful idea, I think one of the greatest injustices of our time is that the privilege of traversing national boundaries is still closed to most of humanity.
You have a big show coming up in collaboration with your husband—congrats! Tell me a little bit more about 'Never Less Than Marvelous'.
My husband Oily Chi and I have been working with and alongside each other forever. Years ago we co-founded an art house, Felino, under which we've curated a number of group exhibitions, produced silkscreen prints, picture books and released other works including his video arcade game Greedies (www.felinostudio.com) and some of my songs (www.felino.bigcartel.com). For this upcoming show we present our individual new works under the common theme 'Never Less Than Marvelous'. We each deploy our own perspectives on marvel, him through objects or commodities, and myself through the corporeal, the human. I'm looking forward to the juxtaposition of our visions!
What does wild mean to you?
The 7-year old Mongolian archer / prolific hula-hoop dancer that I live with comes to mind.
If you're in the Quebec area, be sure to check out Coco Khan + Oily Chi's exhibit at Galerie Espace between June 25th and June 30th.