David Jien: Yakult Gang

Work / Illustration

David Jien’s illustrations are spaces to express his “deepest secrets, concerns and desires”

Four years have passed since we last wrote about the work of David Jien on It’s Nice That. Back in 2015, he had just opened his highly-anticipated show, Exodus, at Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California. Skip forward to today, with a plethora of new drawings under his belt, and he’s currently in the preparatory period for another exhibition at the same venue, which will open in the autumn of this year.

Looking back to the start of his work in the medium, David says: “My earliest exposure to illustration came from reading manga as a fledgeling and making bootleg Akira Toriyama strips.” Later studying at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, the LA-born and based artist began honing his practice.

Now boasting a trademark illustrative style that feels contemporary yet traditional, David’s drawings are windows into worlds full of symbolism and metaphor. “My inspirations come from folklore and ancient stories and their correlation with our current social, technological and cultural climate,” explains David. Taking these inspirations, he creates "spaces where I can express my deepest secrets, concerns and desires. The characters that inhabit this space act as self-portraits of sorts.”


David Jien: Jericho

Made using colour pencil, graphite and gouache, as well as holographic film and other materials for collaging, the drawings bounce between calm and chaos. Fantastical characters go about their business, fighting one another and experimenting in laboratories, while interior illustrations depict strange statues and objects amidst otherwise normal surroundings. The strange phenomena is full of esoteric symbolism in a style reminiscent of Luigi’s Serafini’s famous Codex Seraphinianus.

This mysterious obscurity is no wonder given David’s broad influences, which range from J.R.R Tolkien and Joseph Cornell to “RPG video games from the 90s, particularly the soundtracks when played orchestrally.” It’s a list of reference material that is refreshingly evident in the artist’s work, which has all the imagination of Tolkien and all the warm nostalgia and aesthetic of old video games.

When asked what the future holds, David’s reply is aptly cryptic: “I see the crystal visions, I keep my visions to myself, it’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams. Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?”


David Jien: Maran’atha


David Jien: Alchemist


David Jien: Orion’s Dog


David Jien: Cubby


David Jien: Effigies of Funk


David Jien: Kronos