Imagery associated with childhood gets a playful, dark twist in Sara Yukiko Mon’s work. In one piece, a biro sketch depicts a curly tailed dog diving at the neck of Bambi; in others, iconic characters such as Pepe Le Pew are printed in grainy black and white alongside bright stickers.
Born in San Francisco and trained in design and media arts at UCLA, the artist brings her nostalgic, humorous aesthetic to artworks, fashion garments and commercial products. She has collaborated with everyone from Ariana Grande to Folder Studio. This year, she is working with Paris fashion house Celine on its Summer 22 Cosmic Cruiser menswear collection.
She continues her exploration of clever simplicity on these pieces, printing a black hand-drawn heart filled with the phrase “Lucky Lover” onto skateboards, crisp white shirts and jewellery, and reimagining the design in punky studs on a heart-shaped bag.
If you could save only one item from your studio, what would it be?
I suppose it would be my laptop. I use it for every step of my art process. I collect most of my imagery during random web searches, whether I’m online shopping or looking through restaurant review photos. I also use it heavily when creating my layouts: my background in graphic design is definitely very present in my art practice. It’s been cool hopping so much between digital and physical planes.
“I collect most of my imagery during random web searches. It’s been cool hopping between digital and physical planes”
What was the last art material you bought to use in your work?
My Contax T3 camera. Taking photos has always been a fun way to look out for interesting situations when I’m out and about. Every outing becomes a scavenger hunt. I’ve always taken iPhone photos as inspiration and material for my work, now shooting with film makes me even more intentional about this search for intriguing compositions in my day to day.
What is your go-to song when you’re working in the studio?
Anything that makes me feel like I’m in a beautiful nature scene, for example, Japanese environmental artists like Inoyamaland or Shiho Yabuki. I’ve also been listening to video game original soundtracks like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy. Most of my concepting happens when I’m imagining different scenes to these songs.
Which single work of art would you choose to live alongside in your home?
A piece by my mother who is a surrealist painter. She paints lush landscapes and factory smokestacks in bright primaries. My favourite is of the view from her childhood home in Kumamoto where I would spend every summer as a kid. It show a vast rice field lined with a forest, our neighbour’s home. It’s a view I know very well and miss dearly. She raised me drawing and painting and influenced me to take this path ever since I was a kid.
“I feel like a lot of art spaces end up feeling like an echo chamber of the same techniques and viewpoints”
Top three art or photography books?
Hayahisa Tomiyasu’s TTP. He photographs a ping-pong table from the same angle at different points in time. I love this concept. Also Alex Da Corte’s A Man Full of Trouble. It feels like a photo dump of all the images sitting on his desktop. It’s interesting seeing all his influences (direct or indirect). I’ve been meaning to do something similar! And Fresh Fruits by Shoichi Aoki. Harajuku street style from the 1990s has definitely informed my interest and taste in fashion since I was a kid.
If money was no object, what would you most like to experiment with in your work?
I do want to start working at a larger scale. Also financial freedom means having the time to fully test and explore different possibilities.
Tell us a pet peeve of yours when it comes to the art world.
I feel like a lot of art spaces end up feeling like an echo chamber of the same techniques and viewpoints. It would be interesting to see more risks taken in curation and style.
What is your favourite gallery or museum space around the world?
Gern en Regalia in New York City. They have lovely programming that is unique, consistent and unpretentious. My partner and I had a duo show with them a year ago. I definitely owe them for kicking off my art career !
Emily Steer is Elephant’s editor
Listen to all the go-to songs picked by our 5 Minutes With artists here.
Sara Yukiko Mon
Collaboration with Celine Homme, Summer 22 Cosmic Cruiser collectionVISIT WEBSITE