Gian Galang creates moving art, both literally and in the emotional sense.
Recognized for his bold use of texture and a distinctive action-packed style that draws inspiration from his lifelong love of combat sports, comic books and fighting games, Gian Galang captures the energy of the human figure in dynamic compositions. In “Flying Sword,” his debut Crypto.com NFT collection to be released on Jan. 21, Galang will offer three “moving paintings” created using a combination of acrylic, charcoal and graphite with stop-motion animation techniques — as well as three static ones — all inspired by the martial art of wushu, its explosive power and the graceful, precise movements of its practitioners.
“I had always loved kung fu movies and knew about wushu, but it was through my research for this project [that] I realized what an exquisite combination of art and physicality the sport really is. The athletes not only train their skills and power, but place a high degree of emphasis on form and beauty. This gave me an endless source of inspiration to draw from.”Gian Galang, Creator of “Flying Sword”
Galang’s art can be found on walls from Chinatown in New York City, including the wushu mural that inspired his inaugural NFT collection on the neighborhood’s iconic Doyers Street, all the way to the Jordan store in Shenyang, China — where he created a two-story depiction of the brand’s first-signed Chinese basketball player, Guo Ailun. In addition to pieces done for hotels, restaurants, gyms and training centers across the U.S., he has created original work for clients including Nike, Reebok, VICE, the UFC, ESPN, HBO, Criterion and Everlast.
Galang took illustration and graphic design courses at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied under painter George Pratt, and was a member of the esteemed experimental Wieden+Kennedy 12 creative incubator in its fifth year — before serving as a corporate art director at brands and agencies including Anomaly, Nickelodeon and The Brooklyn Brothers. After seven years in advertising, Galang left his agency gig to pursue a full-time career as a mixed media artist and illustrator — and recently held his first solo exhibition, “The Art of Fighting,” at the Nucleus gallery in Los Angeles last spring. If there’s a common theme in Galang’s life and work, it’s movement — so Crypto.com NFT spoke with the globetrotting artist-in-motion about his creative momentum.
“I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg for me exploring the forms NFTs can take shape; the format truly feels unlimited.”Gian Galang, Creator of “Flying Sword”
Read the Q&A with Gian Galang below and visit the “Flying Sword” drop page for more information.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has it affected your work?
I was born in L.A., lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and grew up in Virginia. As a kid, I loved drawing my favorite action heroes from movies, cartoons, video games, toys and comics. I was always interested in their unique attributes — their special powers, fighting style and overall character designs. I think this fascination continues in my work today, with my obsession in finding new ways to express the human form — especially in ways that exaggerate action.
Describe your evolution as an artist.
My evolution as an artist is driven by a constant curiosity with different ways to visually interpret energy and movement, as well as exploration of unusual textures, techniques and compositions. I find myself more and more trying to push the level of abstraction in my artwork, while maintaining a level of realism and precision that I like.
When did you first know you wanted to be a professional artist?
I’ve always known I enjoyed art and drawing, but I made the decision to pursue painting and illustration professionally full-time after working as an advertising art director for seven years. My job exposed me to so many forms of art on a daily basis, from graphic design and layout to photography and motion. I eventually found that what I enjoyed most was what I had always loved: drawing and painting.
What do you love most about working in your medium?
I love experimenting with any kind of medium that gives me something unusual, and I love mixing media to achieve unusual juxtapositions. I tend to start with physical media because that’s where I find more unexpected results and happy accidents, but I always jump back and forth with the computer because it allows me to achieve things I couldn’t get with physical media alone.
What inspires you artistically, in general?
Nowadays, it’s mostly other artists, especially in other industries. Seeing new ideas and craft in other arenas like graphic design and sculpture makes me think of how those concepts could be applied to painting and illustration.
Who is your audience?
Mostly, it’s people who loved the same things I did growing up — combat sports, fighting games, comic books, etc.
What do you consider “good” art?
I appreciate a certain level of craft and precision across all forms of art, as well as efforts to push a unique point of view — no matter how obscure or niche.
What’s more important: technique or message?
When it comes to single images, I’d say I’m more interested in technique. I admire most work purely on how it looks visually. When it comes to comics and movies or TV, definitely story and message. I love my favorite comic books and shows for the story and concept. I find the technical execution is always secondary.
Of course, I’d prefer both to kick ass [laughs].
What’s your favorite artistic movement, throughout time?
’90s comic book illustration [laughs]. My favorite comic book artists growing up were Travis Charest and Jim Lee. Regularly consuming comics definitely shaped my artistic tastes in terms of visual impact, dynamism and character design.
How were you monetizing your art before NFTs? What were some of your favorite projects?
Until this year, the bulk of my work consisted of commercial projects and brand collaborations. Since my first gallery show in March 2021, there has definitely been a shift to more fine art.
I’ve been lucky to work on dream project after dream project, over the years, but one of my more memorable projects was a collaboration with Everlast — where we created their first artist edition boxing glove. It was the first time I had designed artwork to exist as a three dimensional object and it was so cool to touch, feel and even wear the gloves while working out!
More recently, I was hired to make an artist edition fight poster for UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden. This was a surreal, full-circle project for me — as I began dabbling in illustration by making fake fight posters while I still worked as an art director. Going to the Garden and seeing my official UFC work was incredible.
How did you get into NFTs?
NFTs came at me from all angles this year, from friends, artist peers and even galleries. I naturally consume tons of podcasts every day while I work, so the NFT wave slowly trickled into my head throughout the year. I finally “got it” when I began to see projects that could only exist digitally, or were a more natural fit to exist digitally — rather than, say, in a physical gallery. For me, it was like finding a new medium to experiment with — and even aspects like inventing and structuring projects in the digital realm is super exciting to me.
What do you like most about NFTs or working in the NFT space?
As an artist, I like the idea of the openness of projects. In just this year alone, there have been so many types of projects that stem from the fact that everything exists digitally and can be iterated and experimented on more quickly. As an artist who works a lot with traditional media, I’m excited to explore the different ways my work can exist in its ultimate form digitally, such as having animated or generative aspects to it. I’m pumped to find ways to juxtapose traditional and digital media to create new forms of visual expression.
Tell us about the NFTs in this collection.
This body of work has roots that go back to 2018. I was commissioned by Phil Chong to paint a mural in Chinatown, where we decided on wushu as a theme that would hopefully celebrate and empower the community. I had always loved kung fu movies and knew about wushu, but it was through my research for this project [that] I realized what an exquisite combination of art and physicality the sport really is. The athletes not only train their skills and power, but place a high degree of emphasis on form and beauty. This gave me an endless source of inspiration to draw from, as I discovered so many interesting poses and compositions that emphasized movement and energy.
This series includes both traditional and experimental “moving paintings” inspired by wushu and its beautiful movements. I loved the fact that I could create multiple paintings and go wild with the strokes and textures in each painting, then combine them as animations to bring even more energy to the work. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg for me exploring the forms NFTs can take shape; the format truly feels unlimited.
Browse the “Flying Sword” collection by Gian Galang.
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Editor’s Note (Sept. 6, 2022): an earlier version of this article was originally published on the Crypto.com NFT Medium blog on Jan. 19, 2022 and has since been edited and/or updated to republish.