Even before the stretched canvas rose to prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries, artists sought to challenge the normally-rectangular shape of paintings, with Renaissance painters like Raphael employing circular surfaces as a visual statement. This evolved, by the mid-1960s, into creatives such as Tom Wesselmann employing the fluid contours of dynamically-shaped canvases to defy two-dimensionality’s constraints. Benefiting from a similar progression are the sculptural “platform” canvases of the art toy movement, as exemplified through Kidrobot‘s company-owned Dunny form, which artists began altering the overall profile of through removable accessories only a month after the design’s introduction in April of 2004. Quickly striving to take this direction further, the base form itself started to become completely re-imagined, imparting uniqueness onto the Dunny without rendering its shape unrecognizable, a delicate balance which is embodied throughout the recent Arcane Divination: The Lost Cards series.

Arcane Divination: The Lost Cards Dunny Series

With only six cards from the Tarot‘s Major Arcana not sculpturally interpreted within 2017’s Arcane Divination mini-series (learn more here), collection curator and contributor Jesse “J★RYU” Yu needed a creative solution to accommodate the 13 or 14 unique designs requested by Kidrobot for this follow-up offering. Conjuring forth “an elegant solution” that “made sense,” Yu explains that “we came up with the idea to create new archetypes that weren’t already in the Major Arcana and include those in the series.” Beyond these additions to the existing Major Arcana from the five participating artists in Arcane Divination: The Lost Cards, “there are chase figures,” Yu discloses, “variants of certain designs in the set.” Having issued alternate versions of designs by Tokyo Jesus and Jon-Paul Kaiser in the first series, “I wanted to feature two other artists [in this series], so we have Camilla d’Errico and myself offering up variations. This way,” Yu explains, “all of the artists that participated in both series have had an opportunity to have a chase figure for their collectors to look forward to.”

Camilla d’Errico’s Contributions

“I wanted to see the cards as if they were three-dimensional beings,” said Camilla d’Errico of her The World and Strength interpretations, the artist’s depictions being both “embodiments of the cards” and “characters that had come to life.” Using a lively palette to reflect this, accented by what the artist calls “special touches” such as the “frosted effects for the cloud on The World,” even d’Errico’s mainly black-and-white variant of Strength — an aesthetic decision on her part — encapsulates a brightness through the pops of color in its mix-matched eyes.

Atop each of these personifications’ flowing hair, their animal kingdom-based headdresses elude to d’Errico’s invented Major Arcana contribution: Nature. “Nature is such an important part of our lives,” the artist explains, “she is here to show us that even when bad things happen, they are part of the bigger picture meant to bring harmony into your life.” Pairing a skull-shaped adornment with two bee-like creatures on her design, emphasizing the “balance of life and death,” this denotes how Nature “is as cruel as it is beautiful,” states d’Errico.

Tokyo Jesus’ Contributions

Adorned in a collar of ever-watchful eyes and the “many hands of suffering people,” according to creator Sayu “Tokyo Jesus” Ishiyama, this Japanese artist’s skeletal woman doesn’t embody the Justice card that she’s named after. “I tried designing it as the meaning of reverse position of the [card’s] traditional description,” he states, indicating a sense of “injustice, bias, [and] imbalance” that emanates from it. Aesthetically similar, Ishiyama’s fictional The Survivor card depicts a squatting woman who “is selling skulls to make a living,” which he describes as implying that if “she can sell death, [then] she can survive her life.”

Jon-Paul Kaiser’s Contributions

“A great and noble castle that has stood against battle and siege for centuries is now brought low in minutes and is powerless to stop it,” says Jon-Paul Kaiser in describing his interpretation of The Tower. Depicting a wyrm entangled throughout a traditional Japanese fortress, “elements of change” such as “chaos, upheaval, and destruction,” explains Kaiser, “are written large across the whole of the figure.” Mirroring the dragon’s power, the artist’s rendition of The Chariot features a rider whose stance is “commanding and purposeful, showing his willpower and integrity,” reveals Kaiser. Pulled by two sphinxes, as is a traditional aspect, Kaiser adapted these mythical beasts to have dog-like bodies with “skeletal, human heads,” discloses the artist, “showing the rider’s command over even the undead.”

In “the quest for understanding one’s future,” according to Jesse “J★RYU” Yu, his own Gabriel (learn more here) and Kaiser’s Azazel (learn more here) stand-alone creations introduced “the concept of morality” to the Arcane Divination line, a theme furthered with the imagined Major Arcana card Fortitude. With this contribution designed by Kaiser depicting an angelic being deftly defying hellishly flickering flames, it is meant to represent uncompromising integrity, “a core strength of faith and resilience that is not to be confused with stubbornness nor being headstrong,” according to the artist.

Doktor A’s Contributions

When Aziz “Godmachine” Ibsule was unavailable to follow-up his contributions to 2017’s Arcane Divinations series, his fellow UK-based artist Bruce “Doktor A” Whistlecraft was selected to flesh out The Lost Cards‘ artistic voices. Bringing his sense of mechanical beauty to The Emperor, Whistlecraft retained “a lot of the traditional card elements,” he explains, “such as the throne and the animal skulls” though “shown as faded and outdated” to accommodate his vision. Depicting The Emperor as “a dead figure,” Whistlecraft states, he becomes a “symbol of an outmoded, patriarchal leadership which is now only propped up by an existing, embedded mechanism.”

Taking a more naturalistic approach for his wholly original Major Arcana card creation, Whistlecraft’s The Tree “represents the elemental force of rebirth,” he reveals, “like the inverted Death card in a traditional [Tarot] pack but spun out on[to] its own.” Detailing how when “one thing dies, another will rise,” Whistlecraft elaborates, his design “uses the imagery of new growth emerging from a skull to depict the endless cycle of life.”

J★RYU’s Contributions

Though “loosely based on the traditional concept,” Jesse “J★RYU” Yu admits to transforming The Star into “probably the most personal piece that I have created in production form.” Incarnating “how fortunate (or unfortunate) one is in life as evidenced by the things that surround you,” he explains, “I chose to represent life as rough waters, with three entities in a boat,” symbolizing “myself, my girlfriend Linda [Le], and our dog, Koji.” Furthering the connections to his personal journey, the locations engraved upon the “head” of Yu’s design reflect his birthplace (Taiwan), primary places of residence (Raleigh and Los Angeles), “and the unknown destinations where I may wind up (Polaris),” he explains, as well as a Latin phrase (Ab Aeternō), implying the passage of time this journey has required. More than a rumination on his personal life, Yu’s The Star also encompasses his career’s trajectory. Eluding to the artist’s The Clairvoyant and It’s a F.A.D. Dunnys on the central disc’s double-sided face, this spinning aspect is held aloft by a double-headed arrow in tribute to his long-standing membership to the Army of Snipers collective.

Furthering this reflection upon Yu’s early art toy career is his newly-created Major Arcana card concept: The Ghost. Reminiscent of his ongoing Forest of Sorrows series, especially it’s focal ghost-girl character Locket, The Ghost represents one’s “resolute desire to continue to make sense of decisions they made during life,” describes the artist, “as they defy all laws of religion and physics to remain on Earth after death.” Detailing “an apparition in a dark forest,” Yu says, there are also two variant renditions: “a ghost inside of a cage,” symbolizing “a self-imposed prison of the mind,” and “a ghost-like figure in the fog,” it’s spectral blue glow-in-the-dark form representative of “being lost in the unknown without any ability to clear one’s conscience.”
For the final piece within Arcane Divination: The Lost Cards, Yu opted for “a new 3-inch version of my pre-existing design,” The Clairvoyant. With an 8-inch tall version initially offered in October of 2016, a predecessor of the first collection’s issuing, it became “the ‘face’ of the series,” admits Yu, “serving as the fortune teller” within the line. Accompanied by an anthropomorphized crystal ball sculpture, this two-piece contribution’s cast in “translucent, milky white vinyl,” which the artist accredits with representing “fading away,” marking “the ending” of Arcane Divination‘s Tarot-based mini-series lines. “That said, as bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to the world of Tarot,” the artist states, “hopefully there will be more projects under the Arcane Divination theme to come in the future. Perhaps we should ask The Clairvoyant [something] one last time,” Yu ponders, adding the inquiry: “What does our future hold?”

Click Here to Acquire the Arcane Divination: The Lost Cards Dunny Series from Kidrobot, or Click Here to Find a Kidrobot Retailer to Order it from.

Kaori Hinata / Hinatique's Morris in New York solo exhibition
Pondering aloud in her native Japanese, the young woman quizzically whispers, "A cat?" Having spied a streak of fur race into a dimly-lit corner, she cautiously approaches the area only to vaguely make out a small, furry object in the shadows. Peering at it more closely, this seemed to be…
TaskOne's Within Resin at the Clutter Magazine Gallery
There's a breed of artist who, like stage magicians, craft wondrous works that seemingly make the impossible possible, that force their audience to question its perception of reality. While gravity-defying sculptures like Daniel Firman's Elephant series and Marc Quinn's Planet piece are overt examples, there are also subtle practitioners of…
Kaori Hinata's Morris in New York
Task One's Within Resin