Since 2014・Volume 4
News, Reviews & Coverage of the Artists using Ballpoint Pens, the Artwork They Create, the Tools They Employ & Other Equally Newsworthy but Overlooked Art & Cultural Topics, Worldwide.
PENNAME by O. Lebron posted March 23, 2017
Lined Up・Kai & Sunny・London, England
Far left : Spectrum 2014 ballpoint pen on paper 67 x 84cm
26.3 x 33'' (detail pictured at top).
Below : Flower 2016 ballpoint pen on paper 118 sq.cm
46.5 sq'' (in-full & detail pictured).
All artwork © Kai & Sunny.
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''Our images are very fine and detailed. It’s a highly designed and a controlled process,'' they explain of the production, which is split evenly between the two. By utilizing an amalgam of methods and materials, Kai further explains, ''We felt we were pushing the limits of what was possible with silkscreening.'' Over time, linear possibilities presented themselves. In using lines to build up an image, Kai describes ''seeing strength in the multiple layers of individual lines while a certain fragility remains''. Enter ballpoint pens. ''We began testing with pens and started creating some very interesting results,'' Kai relates. ''The thin line of the ballpoint pen was perfect.'' The first 'Kai & Sunny' ballpoint penworks were exhibited at London's Stolen Space Gallery in 2013. After ''developing the idea further '', they produced more for their 2014 exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. Ballpoint output reached a peak in 2016 for a Paris exhibition where, we are told, eighty percent of the work was ballpoint.
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While some so-called 'hyper'-realist ballpointers working with conventional figurative imagery labor to hide their linework beneath layers of hatching to present the illusion of halftones, linework is very much front and center in the ballpoint manifestations of Kai & Sunny. The illusions created by this British art duo come via lines which take the form of billowing fabric in some compositions and hard-edged geometrics in others. Both outcomes share a design esthetic which is at once fresh and yet somehow familiar. Kai & Sunny's brand of geometric abstractions follow in a long line of modernist minimalism pioneered by the likes of Sol LeWitt in the 1960s and advanced by likeminded artists since. Kai & Sunny's ballpoint work, however, could be better described as 'maximalism', and perhaps someone will find a way to attach an appropriate 'hyper' prefix. Wrought of precision linework, these are not so much representational pictures as they are exercises in atmosphere, providing something of an experience as much as merely something to see. This dynamic duo is also using different kinds of ballpoint pens to do so. No Bic Crystals here, only water- and gel-based ballpoint ink varieties offering wider color options evident in the improbable ranges displayed in the artwork.
Kai & Sunny are Kai Clements, 41, and Anthony Sunter, 39. The two met while studying art and design at Epsom School of Art in Surrey. Now fifteen years into a professional partnership which has included commercial work for publishing interests, their artwork is attracting further attention via exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Although ballpoint pens feature prominently in current work, ballpoints are not the only medium in the duo's oeuvre, and a fairly recent addition. Kai explains that their early exhibitions were mainly print-based silkscreen work, a medium they'd been working with since art school; one they liked because it allowed them to ''go large''. In such print work they'd often presented more recognizable scenery, albeit graphically depicted, than in the ballpoint work that followed. Attention to detail links the two mediums to the two artists.