Through abstracts in film, photography and art, Kriston Koon Koon immerses viewers into a morphed world. Scrolling through his Instagram page of over 13,000 followers, people see the world as he does - complex and multi-layered.
While his blend of expressionism and surrealism is unique, the emotions and topics they cover aren’t, and this is on purpose.
“If my work inspires you to find yourself more, then I would have achieved what I wanted to,” Koon Koon told Sunday Newsday.
The 22-year-old visual artist from Sangre Grande is passionate about his exploration of the creative world.
His first exhibition, Blurred Eyes View, was inspired by heartbreak and explains why he hopes people can find relatability and comfort in any aspect of his work. Hosted at Idlewood Art Studio, Port of Spain, the 2018 exhibition was a curation of images from before, during and after his relationship which ended in 2017.
The name of the exhibition was an interpolation on the phrase “bird’s-eye view” as he explained, “The name played on the idea of having a wider scope of the picture.
“You are being the creature that is going through the motions of life and having a wider view but my view at that time was blurred.”
The exhibit was also an opportunity for him to experiment in the art-world he was just starting to fully explore. There wasn’t any physical art or photograph on show but digital projections on the art studio’s wall.
“If we use the metaphor of us being majestic creatures flying through life, we will experience turbulence. I had the choice to ascend or descend.
“Doing the exhibition for me was symbolically ascending. The entire body of work was an idea of self-realisation,” he said of the event.
Apart from building a social media presence, he had a small photographic exhibition in 2016 to introduce himself and his brand which he saw as progress since his vision to be a visual artist at Holy Cross College.
As a student he learned about film and drifted to photography. Art would come later as yet another medium to express himself.
“The transition to becoming an artist was seamless and not really noticeable. I won’t say there was a point where I thought to myself that I’m a visual artist. I think it just kind of grew into that.”
Upon leaving Holy Cross, he pursued a course for a film degree at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. After completing the course in 2016, he learnt that it was the wrong prerequisite. Despite the error, he was still offered an opportunity to get into the film programme, but he did not pursue it.
“During that year (of doing the wrong prerequisite) I was kind of trying to go to school and follow what I was feeling.
“While I was in school, I just had this idea of exhibitions and trying to brand myself as an artist.
“I got word that I could have still done it (the film degree) but then I felt intuition, which was God, that I was being guided in a direction to follow this part (of being a visual artist).”
A few months after, he connected with local artiste L’Shun Emmanuel (Jimmy October) and believes his creative work on the visuals for the artiste’s Something to Believe In music extended play (EP), with local rapper Jay Nahge, confirmed he made the right decision. “It was an outlet to express what I really wanted to do through the visuals for his project.
“As it built, I felt highly connected to the mediums of expression.”
He credits his work with October as an avenue through which he was able to meet and work with other local artistes, the most notable being soca artiste Kees Dieffenthaller who he met at the end of 2017 in a studio session with October.
Impressed by his work, Kees wanted to work with him for the 2018 Carnival season which was also Koon Koon’s first exposure to the festival because he grew up in a Christian household. He thanks Muhammed Muwakil of Freetown Collective for helping him navigate the transition into working in Carnival environments.
“He (Muwakil) said that the walk with God is narrow, it’s for you and God. For me, the relationship I have with God is a relationship and, in any relationship, it grows… it drifts.
“Sometimes I may not understand things especially if it’s conflicting with my beliefs but at those crosswords it’s trusting about trusting God. It’s about knowing the spaces I am in and where I fit in it.
“As my relationship with God grows, I understand more where I fit in and where he wnts me.”
Since then he has expanded his photographic and creative work with Kees. This year, he served as part of the artistic team that created the video for the soca artiste’s song, Magic, a collaboration with October.
His other works include a New York City photoshoot for local clothing store The Hideout Clothing, and last year he worked with Neel Dwala for a creative roll out of the musician’s new music.
“Wherever, I am getting the opportunity to work, if it something that connects visually to my brand, I go for it.
“I would say I am a visual translator. It’s being able to receive the information and translate it visually to what they (the collaborator) will want and see the bigger purpose in it,” he said of his collaborative efforts.
With the world being his canvas to paint, he is looking forward to more creations but says he also has a desire to formally pursue education at an institution as he sees the importance of having a “traditional” education once it serves the purpose of holistically developing his craft.
“I am in this for the long haul and it’s like building a house, you might have the foundation there, but you do need to know that it can take an earthquake or withstand some heavy rain.
“It’s just getting where I want to be but also taking my time and understanding where things go.”
While he has yet to enter a film festival, he has his eyes set on creating a short film for a few film festivals and is working on a new visual exhibition like Blurred Eyes View to tell a story on a different theme.
His advice for other young visual artists and creatives who may be feel discouraged that the path is not a viable livelihood? They must have passion and patience to support the industry while it grows.
“For me if I didn’t follow those intuitions, I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am.
“Where I am is not stable because it fluctuates but what sustains it is the passion, love and fulfillment.
“The industry here is growing. If one is coming into the industry to pursue a passion, it must be passion.”