artist of the day #45: Mamafaka

It is part of the job of the artist to blur definitions and dissolve borderlines. This probably happens the most in its own world or art, and the defining lines mapping it out. In recent years, the most common thing to be blended together is likely the line between fine art and graphic design. At what point is the creation of an artist more one of these than another. One of my favorite artists to come across while I was in Thailand, dances on this line for his daily 9-5. The name he goes by is Mamafaka. I know this name sounds profane, but it has been my experience that there is a plethora of Thai names and nicknames that sound like cusswords in English. Just be careful saying his name around 4 year olds. He might try to compliment the artwork of his best friend in school and say “you are just like this Mamafaka I know” and the teacher might misinterpret that.

Anyhow, Mamafaka is on the hotlist of graphic designers and fine artists in Thailand. As a designer he has created ads for Nike, Tiger Beer, and various publishing companies. He has also designed toys, skateboards, book covers, and enough t-shirts to clothe most of the people in Ohio. And as an artist he has had his work on display in Thailand, Singapore, Australia, and has plans to show elsewhere in the near future. He is very influenced by Banksy, fashion magazines and Japanese cartoons. He likes to use bright colors and bold lines. His art has a playful sense of humor and often takes a playful imaginary creature and adds intense realistic detail. He definitely fits one of my rules for “What is good Art?” in that his work instantly makes me smile, especially his series of hairy smiling monsters.

So where is the line between fine artist and graphic designer? Some would say that if it is an image designed to sell a product, it is graphic design. But what if the image is for a company you started, or you believe in with all of your heart. Mamafaka helped do some design work for a company called “plusone1” that a friend of his started and he was very passionate about helping them out. So in that case isn’t the “graphic design” a bit more pure and admirable than say a toilet hanging on the wall? Or if the image starts off as fine art, and then a company wants to take that image and put it on a t-shirt or a skateboard, does that change it to graphic design? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to these questions exactly, but I do think it is important to think about them and realize that these definitions are constantly evolving.

Interview with the artist:

Video of him making a mural with some other Thai artists: