Bryan Lie, aka IMCMPLX, is a highly accomplished, futuristic artist and designer from Jakarta, Indonesia. Most in the Web3 space know him for his PFP art with 0N1 Force, but his portfolio includes work with enormous Web 2.0 brands like Samsung and the Chicago Bulls as well as his largest endeavor, a personal project, called God Complex (see physical figurine below). He is currently in the midst of launching a new collaborative project, SAN, a music-focused Web3 company. His creations are visionary and philosophical, and his line work has a characteristic precision about it. I’ve come to appreciate that his pseudonym, which reads as “I am complex”, is actually an understatement in terms of how thoughtful and introspective he actually is. I am really looking forward to this brief opportunity to tap into that and learn more about him and SAN.
Bryan, thanks for joining us today at New Tokyo Rumors! I know you’ve been in Bali this past week with Kaku, so appreciate you taking the time out to do this. Alright, let’s get into it!
Seven, Not Ten, Questions
Q1. Let’s start with young Bryan–what was the most profound piece of art you created as a child and would you be willing to share it with us?
I don’t have a particular one from back then. When I was in 4th grade, I used to draw a lot of random characters from my favorite shows–TMNT, Dragon Ball, Transformers and whatnot. My classmates would snatch them for a penny per drawing. It went on for a while until my teacher caught wind of it and shut it down. They said it had been affecting my focus and grades so they wouldn’t let me draw in class anymore, but you know how it goes…the more they forbade me, the more exciting it was for me to do it.
Q2. The inspiration for your creations seems to be rooted in the darkest aspects of humanity–does the dark side of life always fuel the strongest creative energies within you, or does the light side sometimes ignite that fire as well? I wonder, what would IMCMPLX art look like if you lived in an utterly utopian place (like New Tokyo)?
That’s always the case with any creatives isn’t it? The wanting to understand the primordial chaotic soup we call life. We take all the frustrations, anger, and all the bad stuff and just try to make it a bit more manageable (I usually say in a crude way: “Jiujitsu that shit :)”). To take from both light and dark and put them in a language our soul can understand, only, the bad are usually the more efficient fuel for creativity. I noticed this is why a lot of artists that got their break fizzle out after their first boom–they lost a lot of that fire that they initially had. I believe it’s called the “second album syndrome”. I try to be one of those that can get through that big, debilitating wall. I’m striving for consistency.
Q3. Speaking of your creations, God Complex has been your labor of love for over a decade now. You’ve described the philosophy of the project as hitting three essential notes: “know the gods of the past, be the gods of the present and create the gods of the future”. Can you elaborate on that and also give us any insights into the future of the God Complex?
The Three is constant. Past, present, future. Subculture, culture, anti-culture. The cycle is not circular, the cycle is triangular… … … get it? 😄 Perhaps I pose more questions than I’m actually answering…
God Complex is my own way of putting perspective around the complexities and conflicting nature of the way we view life. To make sense of the higher concept of life, which lies in the divine. To help me navigate beliefs, faith, and come to my own personal conclusions, in the most dreadful and beautiful way. I hope I don’t sound too pretentious, but I guess that’s just the best way I can put it.
I plan to further develop God Complex in a more narrative-based form and there are some things brewing in the background, so wish me luck…
Q4. You’ve mentioned previously that it took about 10 years of arduous work before you got to the point where you could “see the light” (i.e. achieving success) as an artist. What was that pivotal point in your career?
I haven’t always been the most confident person…it’s a trait that doesn’t come naturally to me. So I would rely on others that are more confident and positive. That also happens to be my biggest mistake–letting other people that have their own agenda take care of your own baby. In the 10 years of my God Complex journey, I learned that doing the art is actually the easiest part. The real hustle came from navigating the personalities and all their conflicting motives. Coming back to the artist’s fire that I mentioned before, I can’t view myself as being successful yet. I’ve progressed, that is certainly true, but I’m working and grinding like I usually am. I can’t lose that fire. I can’t lose that chip on my shoulder. Hubris-based thinking, like success, will just dull that chip.
The most pivotal moment is definitely when I went independent–when I decided to take back my baby, God Complex, and nurture it on my own until it’s ready to grow beyond just my care.
Q5. Moving on to you’re new project, SAN–you’re Head of Design, but can you tell us more about the detail of your role and what you’d like SAN’s legacy to be?
It started as a simpler collaboration actually…Kaku reached out around March 2021 to collab on a hardware piece. Knowing the caliber of people he worked with (David Leung), I immediately said yes. To incorporate my philosophies into a music technology is something very new and exciting, but I’m aware that it definitely will take time and major effort to pull off. I did the hardware sketch, and the team were immediately drawn to it. The design created a snowball effect, and that’s when Kaku decided to take this project to a new level. He started onboarding great force amplifiers such as Garrick, Devin, Will, Adam (Cromagnus), Jacob, Kat, and Flu. A year and some months later, this small project has evolved into a much more exciting venture stacked with great and experienced talents coming from many different fields.
SAN’s evolution is organic and it constantly challenges my perspective of how web3 development should be. Devin, Garrick and team made me hopeful for the space again. They are amazing at adapting to the treacherous terrain, and that’s what this web3 space needed. I’m just happy about how Cro’s amazing art will live on through SAN and how it will evolve with the care of this amazingly kind and talented team. I hope SAN can be proof that a good project can exist and thrive in the drought. It doesn’t matter what the landscape looks like, there will always be someone progressing the space forward.
Q6. You, Kaku, and Cro are a powerhouse of talent and creative energy. What qualities do you admire most about those two, and what synergies do you think are unlocked by uniting this triumvirate as the artistic core of SAN?
Kaku, aside from his musical talents and energy, definitely for his resiliency and Mamba mentality. After spending time with him more in LA and in Bali, I saw personally the composure he has in dealing with adversity and challenges. My experience in web3 tells me that a project is only as strong as the leader and how they handle crisis. So far, Kaku passed with flying colors. I saw how he took on trouble that would break lesser men, and charged head on. Especially when you work to revolutionize an industry, there are challenges and machinations from powerful entities that most people don’t get to see. I like him because I recognize the massive chip on his shoulder–it’s similar, or maybe even sharper, than mine.
Cro? Do I need to say anything anymore? I loved his works the moment I laid my eyes on them. He’s got this explosive, primal energy to his lines that is almost the contrast to my more introspective and careful nature. He is like a dragon that only a special individual can make a pact with, and his art is the fire that will melt heads.
I like how you say “creative triumvirate”. Us three kinda balance one another. Usually I was the one playing bridge, but in SAN’s case, me and Cro are like the exact opposite of energy and Kaku is the perfect balancer.
Q7. Finally, the most important question of all–you had a pair of 10KTF Stupidly Sharp Scissors unstaked for at least six months if I’m not mistaken–why do you hate free money so much?
Uhmm…I’m pretty sure I staked both of my scissors (have to double check), but seriously, I wish I could be more active on projects that I hold. I love the 10ktf project, but after missing out on several missions due to time differences in the beginning, it kinda ruined my perfectionist nature.
Are you sure they are free though? Haha, I don’t believe in free anything… Payment comes in many different form… not just monetary currency.
Thank you so much for taking the time–we appreciate you! Best of luck with SAN post-reveal.
Definitely appreciate you and the 10ktf fam! I got to reflect, and this interview is definitely one of the more personal ones. Till next time!