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(e) Cary Kwok (2006) - Barber
Images Courtesy of Herald St, London

This guy wants your hair to be the pubes on his biro dicks

British-Chinese artist Cary Kwok is an illustrator drawn to the male form – particularly the phallus

Cary Kwok is a British artist who holds a fascination with the male body. His work is a collection of drawings and deconstructions that offer a unique insight into the duality of masculinity. After graduating from Central St Martins, his work has been a thrilling addition to the art scene.

Kwok’s biro drawings of penises, which sees them bulging, ejaculating and framed as demi-godlike exquisite sculptures are brief moments of worship and adoration. Kwok’s uncompromising celebration of both power and vulnerability give his work a real depth, while also forcing you to take a moment to take in penises ejaculating en masse.

His gaze as a gay man gives his work a nuanced perspective into the intricacies, humour and details of the masculine aesthetic, with hair often featuring as a means of personification. In Kwok’s world, styling a dick’s hair enables it to take on a new, comedic life. Ahead of his most recent work, due to be exhibited at Frieze festival later in the year, he is recruiting people to donate their hair to his project, to accompany his penis drawings. Initially wanting pubic hair, logistical difficulties mean that he’s now looking for people’s head hair to make his work come alive. We speak to him about his process.

How did you become an working artist?

Cary Kwok: A friend I went to college with, Jamie Johnson, was a good friend of one of my gallerists, Nicky Verber. I used to cut Jamie’s hair and he suggested that Nicky let me cut his hair too. So I’ve been Nicky’s hair dresser pretty much ever since. Jamie suggested I should show Nicky my drawings – at first I thought it’d be weird. I was working as a freelance illustrator for various magazines and designers in Hong Kong and London and the magazine group ‘Modern Media’ in China. Nicky and Jamie came round to my place one evening to get their hair cut and I showed him my work. Nicky was starting a gallery and participating in their first art fair, Zoo Art Fair. Nicky asked if could make something they could put on the invites. I make a drawing of a peacock and a drawing of a 1950s styled man watching two monkeys fuck. The drawings were well received and they sold them. That was the start.

What is the fascination with the male form for you?

Cary Kwok: The male body is just fascinating. So is the female form but in a different way. 50 per cent of my work is male nude, usually pretty sexual. The other 50 per cent is women in period fashions. I guess mainly because I’m sexually attracted to men.

Why are you recruiting people's pubic hair for the project?

Cary Kwok: I’m making a series of small drawings of penises and I was thinking of incorporating pubic hair in the drawings. I’ve been playing around with it and I now realised pubic hair is too short for what I’m trying to achieve so I decide to use head hair instead. The hair is going to be coiffed like how people used to preserve hair in lockets back in the Georgian, "Regency" days. 

Who have been the most generous pubic hair donors?

Cary Kwok: I’ve got some pubic hair from friends. Not sure if I should return them to the owners now. 

What is the significance of using real hair instead of fake?

Cary Kwok: The textures are different. You can style real hair with tongs. I just bought some antique curling tongs – I’ve been using them to style the hair for this series. After I’ve finished the stuff I’m working on now I’ll be making portraits of real guys’ penises and adding their hair to them, so I guess it’d be important to use the real hair of the subjects. This time I’m using real hair too but the penises in my new series belong to fictional characters, they’re not real people. How the colours and the textures of the hair go with the shape of the penises and the personalities of the characters is more important for this series.

How do you describe your experience as a Chinese person making art in the UK?

Cary Kwok: Having lived in the UK for twenty odd years. British and European cultures have influenced me a great deal as a person. The message behind my work is often personal to me. Things I’m passionate about, like period fashion and hairstyles from different countries, things that fascinate me, or my experiences as an East-Asian person living in the UK. A lot of my work has subtle resonances about racial, ethnic, sexual and gender equality. I like to celebrate these differences through my work, whether it’s hairstyles or sex, but always with a sense of humour.

Do you intend to shock with your work?

Cary Kwok: I never ever intend to shock for the sake of it. And to me, sex is not something I consider shocking. I only try to get my message across to the audience with things that I’m passionate about.  People who find it shocking without trying to understand it are probably people who take things at face value. I can’t cater my work to be for everyone.