Fusion Junction 3

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Publisher: ABDOTC Publishing

Date Published: 2008

Pages: 103

Size: 10.9″ by 7.4″ (Hardcover)

A collection of contemporary character art

‘Fusion Junction 3’, the third installment of the ‘Fusion Junction’ series, continues the anthology of character design for modern gaming, comic, film and advertising, a seemingly inexhaustible subject given the continually expanding appetite of consumers. The ‘Fusion Junction’ series is a product of the growing use of digital art as a mainstream medium, its popularity in the younger generations of artists and art lovers and its growing presence in media imagery (due to its use for concept art in film, games and recently advertising). Technology and the internet are revolutionising art, not only in its form and function, but its capability to be spread over the world with a click of a button.

‘Fusion Junction 3’ continues the format of four artists and features the artworks of Artgerm, MHK, Noah and Noho. (Please click the following links for my reviews on the predecessors  ‘Fusion Junction 1’ and ‘Fusion Junction 2’).

Artgerm (Stanley Lau) of Singapore is the oldest of the group, at 34 years old, and one of the most popular artists in the deviantArt community. The female body seems to bring out a passion in him – his artworks are particularly focused on the sensual and powerful silhouette of women. Artgerm’s ‘Pepper Robot II’ is featured on the cover and the ‘Pepper’ character seems to be his muse. Her combination of desirability and technology appear in many forms, but always with an iconic set of  headphones (Pepper has become such an icon that a book, ‘The Pepper Project’, was recently published featuring 100 different artists impressions of her). Artgerm’s use of flowing lines and rainbow colours are distinctive and pleasing to the eye. His style changes vastly, yet he seems able to produce multitudes of forms confidently and his experience is self evident.

MHK (Xiang Chen, 24) of China specialises in colourful, very cliched anime inspired artworks. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of MHK’s artwork there is very little to distinguish from the myriad of other anime-like digital artists. However, MHK occasionally throws in something like the disturbing dead man and nymph like creature of  Pg50 and the hardcore santa of Pg42, which employ extremely talented uses of composition, colour and imagination. These flashes in the pan show what MHK is capable of, but not fully realised yet in the majority of the artists’ work.

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Noah’s (Kuang Hong, 28) work invokes H R Giger. Despite Noah’s Chinese background, he specialises in a revival of  hyper detailed 1980’s fantasy art – a style that has gone out of fashion at the moment – but with a new twist. Selectively placed bright colour, modern grunge elements and classical mythological figures fuse the styles convincingly. Angels and mermaids intertwine their flesh with mechanics and stone. The textures of rock, silken fabric and thorny growths are rendered exquistely.

Noho (Hye-Young Choi of Korea, 27) showcases the conceptual side of modern character design, in particular monsters and fantasy world design for games.  He favours the brown and green end of the colour spectrum, giving a damp and authentic quality to his monsters. He also dabbles in some cartoonesque pieces and provides sketches alongside complete pictures.

Noticeably, the vast majority of female characters featured in ‘Fusion Junction 3’ are sexualised, even the pre-pubescent girls. This reflects the market game /comic art is aimed at – boys and young men – and the need for attention grabbing designs.

Interviews are woven naturally throughout the artworks, which improves on ‘Fusion Junction 2’ where they were placed separately at the back. The questions asked and details regarding the artists are very insightful. The heinous font of ‘Fusion Junction 1’ and ‘Fusion Junction 2’ has also been replaced. Irritatingly, the page numbers disappear constantly despite having a index at the start of the book.

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MHK and Noho both have one or two outstanding works, however overall their works are sub-par. With the exception of Noah and Artgerm, there is no sense of cohesive style or identity in ‘Fusion Junction 3’. This lack of style could be a reflection of the client demands of modern artists and it does show the flexibility of these professionals to produce vastly different works. Book wise though, this mix-n-match quality causes the reader to feel as if they are viewing drafts or an artists’ work before they have developed their own solid artistic identity.

The lack of western art, and the entailing loss of variety in the finished selection of art, is perhaps the greatest problem with ‘Fusion Junction 3’. Firstly, it goes against one of the greatest themes of the book – the international nature of character design and the internet – and the fusion of different cultures represented in artwork. Secondly, western approaches to design and colouring are vastly different from their Chinese, Singaporean and Korean counterparts, which inadvertently take a great deal of influence from Japan and thus can seem quite similar. Obviously, western comic and game art  is currently not as fashionable as the anime style popularised by Japan and imitated by other asian nations. However, this causes it to be less subject to current trends and a well placed western artist could have provided the eye-catching difference in style ‘Fusion Junction 3’ lacks.

‘Fusion Junction 3’ takes two steps forward and one step back. The improvement in layout and font is welcome, but unfortunately it is less important than the meat of the book; the content itself. Although Artgerm and Noah are noteworthy, the selection of MHK and Noho seems partly premature to the full development of their skills and are also boringly safe choices. The audience for digital concept art, public and private, has expanded greatly over the last couple of years – unfortunately ‘Fusion Junction 3’ isn’t keeping up.

♥♥½ – 2½/5

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