On November 3rd, 1957, the U.S.S.R did the unthinkable: they launched the first living animal into Earth’s orbit. Carried within the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2, I’m talking about the stray dog turned canine cosmonaut, Laika.
 
Decades after Laika’s trip, his story had me dreaming of a space dog in my youthful days. And I was obviously not alone in this inspiration, as Chinese artist Han Ning also imagined a Space Dog and his adventures… The difference is that Ning made his dreams real, turning the concept into a resin sculpture.
Han Ning - Space Dog - All three versions
Of course, Ning’s own journey didn’t happen overnight. He graduated from the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts’s Studio of Contemporary Art in 2008, getting his degree with a focus on oil painting. And while he’d explored sculptural works before 2016, it wasn’t until this year that Ning produced his first works within the designer toy movement: his Space Boy set in three color schemes.
Han Ning - Space Dog - Space Boy Sets
Depicting a youthful lad ready to tackle the rigors of outer space, Space Boy piece didn’t come alone, it was accompanied not just by his trusty rocket but also his sole companion, the Space Dog called Pizza.
Han Ning - Space Dog - Pizza the Space Dog
The stylized Space Boy character received critical praise, but Ning realized it was the Space Dog that seemed to be stealing people’s hearts. Focusing on this design, the artist opted to evolve the form into three slightly different versions, each with their own extremely distinct personality. All using the same canine form with its adorable puppy face, each of the three are made individual through not only base color choices but also the varied helmets that adorn them.

My Impressions of the Space Dog sculptures

Da Wang is a lion-like yellow, his dome decorated with attentive ears and toothy roar. Expressing this Space Dog’s protective persona, it’s easy to imagine Da Wang as a guardian, keeping alien threats at bay.

In contrast is Xiao Tian, the pink colored Space Dog, her helm affixed with a seven-colored unicorn horn. Embodying the imagination and creativity needed to accomplish space flight, she also conveys the sheer magic of visiting the stars.
And, finally, there is Qiu Qiu. The most cartoonish of the three with its frosted helmet and roughly drawn face, there is a hugely humorous feel to this faceless dog. Wait, did I say faceless? Actually, Qiu Qiu is the only one of the Space Dog family whose dome is completely removable.
With each Space Dog color limited to 300 numbered pieces, these all have such a polished and perfect feel for a reason… they were all handmade in a factory, with no mass-production machines used. It took almost two months to complete the runs, but the individual care really reflects in finished works.
Han Ning - Space Dog - Numbered underside
The only imperfection is the truly obvious one: the seam line on the helmets. Honestly, I actually like how this aspect is reminiscent of classic plastic space toys and how they looked, but it does disrupt an otherwise pristine profile.
Han Ning - Space Dog - Helmet seam
Really embodying the joy of exploring the unknown, Space Dog’s cartoonish aspects convey childlike wonder without detracting from the maturity of this smartly sculpted form.

Editions of Space Dog [show]

For more information on Han Ning:
website | blog | instagram | tumblr

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