artist nini sum tells classic tales in the language of screen printing

IdleBeats – China’s first independent silkscreen printing company set up by artists Nini Sum and Gregor Koerting – is keeping the practice of screen printing and collaboration alive. Here Nini walks us through their latest ongoing collaborative works, A Tale of Two Cities.

Collaboration is at the core of IdleBeats ethos: from working with musicians to design their album art and posters and developing product images for brands, to their continuous silkscreen exhibition series, A Tale of Two Cities. Based on Dicken’s classic story of the same name – a book which depicts the plight of French peasants who have been demoralised by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, told in parallel with the unflattering story of life in London at the same time – the exhibition is a series of silkscreen prints, each made in collaboration with another studio. Following the great success of their first collaborative exhibition with Parisian silkscreen printers FrenchFourch in 2015, IdleBeats invited Cambodia-based Sticky Fingers to help create the the second chapter of "A Tale of Two Cities”.

We invited Nini, one half of the artist duo behind IdleBeats, to walk us through some of the pieces from the exhibition.

1. My Boy

The portrait in this print is a local boy I encountered in Cambodia. His eyes are barely open because he was riding a bike under the burning sun – you can almost see the lights shining upon him, the heat and sweat. This was my first impression of Cambodia. Sticky Fingers found an used condensed milk can from a brand called ‘My Boy’, but the boy is pale on the original packaging. This appearance is very symbolic of the colonial period of Cambodia as back then, all commodities had to use images of white people. That burning afternoon, under the roof of that seaside shed everything we needed for a good print magically came together.

My Boy
My Boy

2. Statue No.1

This is my latest work that I finished at the end of 2016, discussing the relationship between decaying primitive culture and modern civilization. Faces from primitive tribes are placed peacefully on the platform, with the shade adding a sense of space and tranquility. Primitive culture within modern civilization serves as a reminder of the humble way of life that predominantly existed.

3. Statue No.3

When an increasing number of satellite bases appeared in the mountains of Guizhou Province in China, countless families from ethnic minorities were forced to leave home. Some tribes dared not even walk free on their own land on account of the satellites falling from the sky.

4. Knight Night

This series attempts to gain an objective view on the phenomena of sprawling metropolis as postmodern life environment; gloomy architecture of a fictional megacity and snapshots of its inhabitants lost in crime, isolation and decadence. On first view this appears to be a depressing dystopia, but there is an underlying message of hope for individual freedom, equality and a new social consciousness. The depiction of savage street gang kids is based on a archetype about the desire of a breaking free from social boundaries.

5. Metro Station

If one compares the Real Big City with a living body, the metro system stands for its blood circulation. This is the reason for why it is a recurrent theme throughout the chapters of the series.

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