Artist Sean Go supercharges nostalgia through galactic punk pop and capitalistic flair

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Published: Mon 26 Dec 2022, 5:00 PM

Artist Sea Go remembers waking up at 7:00 am in his hometown of Manila to shout back 'TAHO' at the taho vendor, who would then use their version of echolocation to determine which house the call back was coming from. This was the traditional Filipino way of signaling that he wanted to order the delicious treat. Go often ordered a lot of taho, one of his favorite silken tofu desserts, with extra syrup and tapioca pearls. These experiences that pull on Nostalgia come back to Go in his art, but with a Star Wars Galactic Twist in his piece Taho Trooper.

By Deepak Jain

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While taste and style are most certainly subjective to a piece of a collection's viewer, a few select modern artists seem to have been able to entice the art community at large into appreciating and resonating with their work, all while remaining true to their authentic voice. Buzzy NYC-based Filipino artist Sean Go certainly falls within this exclusive echelon of contemporary artists, expertly blending nostalgic motifs of international pop culture with societal commentary emblematic of ongoing world events and his own important Filipino heritage.

As his career as an artist has developed, Go has been the pioneer of a new branch of pop appropriation art with a zesty twist – affectionately monikered as 'Pop Appropriation', a portmanteau of pop culture and cultural appropriation. Just as designers and artists across the western world have nefariously appropriated pieces of other cultures to bolster their own creative output, Go has flipped this unfortunate practice on its head by himself appropriating elements near and dear to western culture’s heart into his attention-grabbing art – whether it be high-profile Marvel comic book characters, iconic Pokemón cards or beloved Disney movie personalities.

Take Go’s Mama Coco, for example, a piece made both in homage to Disney’s Día de Los Muertos musical Coco and renowned Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres. Featuring Mama Coco emblasoned in a textured variety of wrapped candies, Go’s Mama Coco provides a visual feast while also sparking conversation on what appropriation means from the corporate lens, especially given Disney’s usage of historic Mexican culture throughout the film.

Go loves children’s stories like the Big Friendly Giant, Aesop’s fables, and proverbs from both China and the Philippines, which his grandparents liked to pass down through oral tradition. Even as adults, we can learn many lessons from children’s stories such as the Three Little Pigs, which has been featured in Go’s art, and Biblical stories like Noah’s Ark. Part of the appeal of art to me is how art pushes us to a childlike state of almost carefree creativity, where we once were driven by curiosity and non-judgment. Today, people are quick to judge, so an artist’s ability to self-express is quite refreshing, especially coming from a business and legal background.

Continuing his societal discourse on corporatism and capitalism, Yoda’s Diner is a tongue-in-cheek examination of Disney’s continual depiction of cannibalism across its intellectual property. Here, Go depicts Star Wars’ iconic characters Yoda and notable frog-lover Grogu staring wistfully into an aquarium filled with some of the corporation’s other fishy friends, like Bruce from Finding Nemo and Flounder from the Little Mermaid, as they determine what’s on the menu for dinner.

After sharing his works with the world in international group exhibitions, Go is now set to bring his unique Pop Appropriation pieces to his very first solo show in Manila, the Philippines in June 2023, in what’s set to be a major homecoming for the Filipino artist. Go will be working with his art dealer Derek Flores of DF Agency.

While no two peoples’ taste is exactly alike, Go’s proven masterclass at nostalgic imagery utilisation has made his unique message resonate with just about any one of his pieces’ viewers. As Go’s star continues its rise, expect the Filipino artist’s creations to become just as ubiquitous in the international art scene as the iconic movies and characters he borrows from.

For more on Go, explore his art on his website, check out his online store, or follow him on Instagram for the latest updates.

— Deepak Jain is an independent blockchain publicist

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