In the golden age of hand-drawn signage, Hong Kong-based artist, Kos Cos turned his father’s agency workshop into a personal playground, studying and practising his brush skills after school. Renowned for portraits that are distinctive through their use of vivid colours and bold brushstrokes, Kos adds movement and energy to create dynamic pieces of work.
You were born in 1974 in Sri Lanka and belonged to an artistic family. What memories do you have of that time?
I consider myself lucky to have been born to my parents. I had a normal childhood growing up in the suburbs of Colombo, Sri Lanka during the late ’70s to mid-’80s. Life was slow-paced and simple – with lots of greenery and nature. In my mid-teens, we moved to Mount Lavinia, which is a coastal town: that’s where I developed my relationship with the sea. I still love the sea and I’m currently living close to the sea! I had a bunch of great friends while growing up: playing cricket was our favourite pastime.
My parents wanted me to be an engineer so they pushed me into related studies. So I never studied art formally, although later on, my father sent me to one of his friends – an artist – to learn political cartooning. My mother used to make patchwork using textiles in her free time. All this was done at this table with lots of colourful textiles next to her sewing machine. I watched her combining colourful pieces of textiles to create fantastic wall hangings – I feel this influenced me. My father had his own outdoor advertising agency. I have vivid memories of this from when I was seven-years-old. I remember going to my father’s workshop after school to see artists working on outdoor advertising billboards. Here, I had the first-hand opportunity to see painters creating advertisements on giant billboards. There were also many art materials available to me, which I used to paint and make crafts.
Sadly, though, that was the last two or three decades of handpainted outdoor billboards: everything went digital after that. I believe I am very fortunate to have had that exposure. Looking back, those outdoor billboards were a heavy influence on my early portrait works.
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