No.17 – BEN EDUCATA

No.17 – BEN EDUCATA

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Sunday, 28 February 2021

My ONI is well behaved with a good table etiquette, besides I really don’t wanna know what he is eating, he deserves a spot light for a change. I know my treatment of ONI is unusual and here’s why. Calling out loudly ‘Demons Out!’ ‘Fortune In!,’ the entire family gets involved to mark the end of winter and start throwing dry soybeans at an ‘ONI’ (Demon, Goblin, Ogre, Monster, whatever English translation would be suited) which is most often played by a dad wearing a paper mask of ‘ONI.’ This rather chaotic and messy event is a traditional ritual Japanese perform called ‘Setsubun’ (roughly meaning celebrating the coming of spring) and takes place on the 3rd of February every year.

Anyway, I remember my mum used to buy a bag of dry soybeans from supermarket, after we finish throwing some out the window and some inside the house, we collect the ones remained inside the house for her to roast them. Because we supposed to eat pieces matching the number of one’s age plus one for a sign of good luck. Therefore I am very glad I no longer celebrate it today. ONI are the mythical creatures from the folklore tales, normally depicted to have 2 huge horns on his head with short curly hair and very sharp fangs. They are gigantic, head to toe in red, blue or yellow colour and seem to be wearing a tiger (skin) pattern pants.

They always carry a huge spiky iron club. One of famous proverbs derives from this image. ‘ONI ni kanabou’ (Demon with an iron club) signifies even a most vulnerable person can be empowered with other’s help just like a case of the powerful combo – a demon and a weapon – can become invincible. Another interesting idiom with ONI goes like ‘do laundry whilst the demon is away.’ This expression is equivalent to ‘when the cats away, the mice will play.’ We can almost picture when sneaky children (or adults) locate a hidden cookie jar in the kitchen cupboard whilst mum is away, can’t we? Oh and we should never talk about next year, if we do, ONI will laugh at us.

ONI are believed to steal children and eat them. The peach boy is a role model of exemplifying his filial piety by beating ONI and made his foster parents proud. I am not up to speed with a recent trend of anime industry but at least noises of ‘Kimetsu no yaiba’ (demon slayer) I did catch. I believe its movie sale surpassed the record sales of Spirited Away and became numero uno last December. Surprisingly, the story of fighting against ‘ONI’ fascinates people across the world and beyond the passage of time.

More we think about it, we are constantly facing our own inner demons and fighting not to get succumb into them. There is a concept of ten kinds of troops who are designated to perturb and obstruct people (Nichiren Buddhism Library). Of course troops means personifications of hindrances, nevertheless sometimes I find myself very difficult to stay focused on what I am supposed to be doing. I must admit it is a constant struggle which never goes away. So I shall give my blue ONI a credit for his well-behaviour!

No.9 – IL COWBOY URBANO

No.9 – IL COWBOY URBANO

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

A sombrero and a huge moustache. I don’t believe my mental image of a cowboy comes from any authentic sources. It is because I really don’t watch movies in the western genre, no offense to any enthusiasts. I could solely link the famous phrase, ‘Shane, come back!’ and Charles Bronson’s after shave ‘Mandom’ adverb produced in Japan as my limited reference of western movies. That was about it. Nevertheless I wanted to create a cowboy sheriff who has time travelled into an urban city and found himself navigating a traffic middle of the street. Followed by his trusted companion – now it looks more like a huge wooden rocking horse -who has completely disregarded where he was and could not contain his joy of reuniting with his master.

One of my friends, who has a high opinion of Western movies, spoke passionately about how Italians hijacked the very genre. The term ‘Spaghetti Western’ (or known as ‘macaroni western’ in Japan) was initially used in a derogatory manner to show disapprovals toward Italian productions. In time, though, they well earned the recognition in the field, starring acclaimed Hollywood actors such as Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. When I finally watched a trailer of ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966), I realised the caricature of my cowboy did come from villain types, not heroes. Either way, it was very delightful to be educated about the Italo-western relationship indeed.

Morte e Vita a Venezia

Monday, 8 February 2021

‘The most beautiful boy in the world,’ a documentary of Bjorn Andresen will soon appear in the Sundance Film Festival. This headline, one morning, grabbed my undivided attention when I was still struggling to get out of my bed, but instead, my eyes kept up and down the mobile phone surfing daily monotonous media articles. Bjorn was 15 years old when he played an iconic role as ‘Tazio’ in the Visconti’s 1971 film, ‘Death in Venice’ (Morte a Venezia) which was the adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel. For anyone who was besotted by this heavenly gorgeous blond hair boy with his name has shot to stardom after the film, this documentary is not to be missed. Sadly, the content exhibits his tragic life thereafter, not likely corresponding with the title by the look of the critics. I ought to see it somewhat as it is my responsibility.

I suddenly decided to write a bit about my experiences in Venice. Back in October 2019, I went to see the Biennale exhibition, catching the vaporetto from the Venezia train station all the way to Giardino. Despite the unwelcoming weather and the rough canal water rocking the boat, a distant view of the San Marco Square (as shown in above photo) along the way, captivated my heart and soul as usual. By the way, the sun did eventually come out, I took a photo of beautiful sunrays glowing on the serene water. That is the photo on my Blog page. One of my most memorable exhibitions, I should say, was at the pavilion the story of Canadian indigenous community ‘Inuit’ displayed on the huge TV screens. I sat and sat still and watched their fascinating stories. They taught me a lesson never to be arrogant in thinking a handful privileged, civilised citizens could dominate the entire world by exploiting our eco-system excessively and infinitely.

Rewinding to 2018, I had a pleasure staying with my Italian friend in Aviano who hosted me for a few days. Her name is Laura Trevisan (www.lauratrevisan.it), and she is an exceptionally talented, selling Artist and a fellow Buddhist. I believe she is also a graduate of the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. I have known her since I lived there in 1993 so wow! nearly 3 decades! We spent a day together in Venice strolling the alleys and bridges, except to stop for a cup of espresso or a bite to eat. Tramezzini (Venetian sandwich) I was introduced for the first time, which was inexpensive, tasty and so filling. Refreshing to know for a person (me) who only ate overpriced dishes near the Rialto bridge and elsewhere that were not even tasty. Or I didn’t pay enough?

Things to write about Venezia never fall short as I stopped counting how many trips I made it there. From flamboyant experiences during the Carnivale seasons to visiting countless churches and art galleries, including during my overnight field trip the Art History class required to complete a project for my Uni course. There is an episode of spending the Christmas morning with my two sons (out of three), watching the Mass at the Basillica San Marco and climbed up to the roof. Hardly no one was there in the San Marco Square, because of the news broadcasted the night before that the square was completely flooded due to the high tide and unable to walk around. Well, we stayed at a nearby hotel and found no water covered the ground!

Okay I must stop now. Finally, I wanted to thank Laura for her recent tutorship, having taught me some basic artistic theories and technique since I had no knowledge of. I need to work on some tasks whilst I can still remember what to do!! I may not be very disciplined after all…

No.16 – K

No.16 – K

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Monday, 1 February 2021

A bright, large, gleaming full moon illuminates the midnight sky for a few days now. Yesterday’s brutal, bitter cold wind cleared clouds away. I could not stop admiring the beauty even I was standing outside chilled to my bones. Moon affects tidal waves – I vaguely remember we learned that in school. I read an article of how tidal waves and moon are related to each other on the BBC website, Bitesize. At the time our planet earth and the sun and the moon are lined up, the difference of the high and low tide becomes largest due to the moon’s gravitational pull getting strongest. Worth knowing…

Japanese culture comprises many peculiar concepts existing to be understood only by people who grew up in the country or raised by parents who follow Japanese traditional ways of living. I was taught every time we look at a full moon, we see a bunny who is pounding ‘mochi rice’ with a ‘Kine’ (wooden mallet of a sort) in an ‘Usu’ (mortar/large stamp mill type). Pounding ‘mochi rice’ in this fashion plays a very important role during the New Year’s celebration. Still no idea how the bunny got involved to operate this mission on the full moon. Today, I tragically can no longer see it on the surface. What a shame (grin).

Two of my all time favourite Japanese folklore tales are ‘Momotaro’ (the peach boy) and Taketori monogatari (the tale of the bamboo cutter or princess Kaguya). Allowed me to omit details here, they both have a similar storyline. Hard working yet less fortunate elderly couple who has no children, inadvertently end up discovering a baby in the most absurd place. A peach boy in the huge peach streaming down the river and a princess Kaguya in the stalk of a bamboo tree (moon is her home). Both grew up to demonstrate a filial piety in repaying the debt of gratitude. No intention of mocking these stories. All I wanted to create was a huge peach to surprise my hip full moon.

Then I became so greedy. This time, I wanted to add one more mythical creature – how about a kappa! This green, human-like figure with a turtle shell on its back and a plate on its head cannot survive without keeping its plate moist. This imp is small and well known for its mischievous behaviour and is always scaring people. Kappa’s favourite food is cucumber. Yes I wanna know why too. By the way, I came up with the best fitted title for this picture. A letter ‘K’ in Italian is read ‘Kappa’. How amazing!

No.34 – SOGNO DOLCE

No. 34 – SOGNO DOLCE

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41 cm)

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Last year, when the live streaming of the Royal Ballet’s much awaited ‘The Nutcracker’ scheduled on Tuesday, 22 December 2020 got cancelled due to Tier 4 status in London, us fans were ineffably disappointed. The Company has not been back to perform on stage that long and took a hit again! – sadly, a stark reminder of a presence of this pandemic. Ordinarily, watching ‘The Nutcracker’ adds the traditional festive mood which was lacking in me then, so my excitement was shattered but oh well there will come another opportunity.

To rescue our lost soul, the Royal Ballet announced to stream the 2017 production of ‘The Alice’s adventure in wonderland’ instead. What a splendid idea that was! Hence I had a pleasure of watching it over and over until it expired a couple of days ago. The featured dancers were Lauren Cuthberston as Alice, James Hay as Lewis Carrol/white rabbit, and Steven McRae as The Mad Hatter. So bright and cheerful – even as an adult I got drawn right into the enchanted wonderland.

I then remembered I have created my art piece which depicts the twisted image of Alice and other characters from wonderland. One of those moments when my head demanded to produce stuff dwelling inside for some time. I have absolutely no idea why I wanted to swap the roles of characters of Alice, the Mad Hatter and white rabbit but that was how it turned out. Especially it’s bizarre my white rabbit wears ‘tutu’ without a knowledge, at the time, of any ballet production ‘Alice’s adventure in wonderland’ existed.

It’s worth mentioning here I think. It’s kind of interesting to note that a few friends (male) who saw this picture uttered the identical opinions. Rabbit’s eyes give a shivering (actually – freaky, an expression according to them) feeling off they cannot bear staring much longer. Hmm. How so? They said it reminds them of a certain character appeared in a children’s book or a cartoon which has very very frightened them during their childhood. In the case, this is ironic. I named this art, ‘SOGNO DOLCE’ (a sweet dream). However, it totally has an opposite effect to potentially evoke someone’s nightmares…

No.22 – AIUTO!

No. 22 – AIUTO!

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Who does not love movies? I love movies, especially those classic, romantic ones. My mother’s influence definitely got me into them. She would often hum the melody from her favourite movie scores and talked with dreamy eyes. ‘Gone with the wind’ (1939), ‘Casablanca’ (1942), ‘Roman holiday’ (1953) to name a few. Hard to imagine now a days, but in my early teens, kids were allowed to go to Cinema on our own (or by myself). I remember often going there alone too, and most probably instead of heading to school sometime… ha ha. What about PG 13 and all the restrictions? Non-existent in those days? Hmm. Oh they charged next to nothing to catch a great deal of ‘3 movies back to back’ special.

From the special deal, I fell in love with an Italian movie called ‘the last angels’ (1978) (or gli ultimi angeli in original title) and its background music that stuck in my head forever. A few days later, luckily I manged to find the sound track vinyl record (I must have begged my mother). In it, there is a very short monologue where Natalie Delon (a former wife of Alain Delon) answers a call to say, ‘Pronto, pronto. Pronto, Chi parla? Marco? Si, si, Marco…’. It was a call from her runaway son, Marco, who lives a tragic story ending. This encounter was destined to set off my interests in learning Italian language. How mystic! The reason for my rumbling concludes to say when other ordinary kids went to Cinema to watch live action movies including Godzilla series plus all sorts of animation movies suited for kids, I was far more interested in Hollywood movies not in a snobbish way.

Lights, Camera, Action!!’ – wait a minute. My imaginary scary monster is too frighten to stay up on a tower and screaming for ‘AIUTO’, yet no one seems to notice. Completely immersed in their own role of a take. A ha! There she is. There is only one person scrupulous enough to detect the oddness of the situation. Of course she is a woman, oops did I say that? (a huge grin) Grew up watching a few Godzilla and his arch-enemy monsters series, I just wanted to create a enormous, fierce creature at one point. This time though my attempt failed miserably! This monster didn’t live up to my expectation and so far none of my creation has an element of terror anyway. Something to work on (a huge sigh).

No.20 – ECCO MI!

No.20 – ECCO MI!

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Monday, 11 January 2021

Whilst waiting for a bus at the bus stop somewhere in remote countryside (there is a typical Japanese bus stop sign evident), this teenage boy got suddenly startled by the arrival of a stuffed bear creature turned up pulling a toy wagon, shouting ‘ECCO MI!’ – ‘here I am at your service’. Very similar to the case of my picture ‘wellies’, all I wanted to create was this red plastic (or metal) toy wagon (or trailer in the UK) dwelled in my head for a long time.

It’s not hard to picture so many kids had their hands on the simple wagon toys and played by stuffing toys and books inside, towing around and accidentally (or intentionally) bumping into every imaginable corners of furniture in the house or mowing savagely the most beautiful flowerbeds and vegetable patches in the backyards. And when they got exhausted or bored, they went inside the wagon and demanded to be pulled by someone else, most probably by their dads.

I am no way lecturing how we deal with children as a parent, because I am one of those parents who spoiled the children showering with excessive amount of toys and stuffed animals, etc. And any broken or torn toys were destined to go into bins. How awfully wasteful!! I am indeed ashamed of myself looking back.

So as my atonement, the bear creature in my picture has one leg in a different colour. It signifies the leg has been fixed and preserved instead of being discarded. And just maybe, the reason it frightened the teenager….. was because he could have been the owner of this stuffed animal in his childhood? Wouldn’t it be petrifying, would it?

No.2 – COME UN SOLE

No. 2 – COME UN SOLE

Saturday, 9 January 2021

She was always smiling unstintingly. She had a special way to touch people’s hearts. Parting from such an amazing person came so suddenly. I was informed of her passing in summer, 2 years ago. When I met her for the first time, we instantly clicked. She began brightening my life since then.

She introduced me to many Vegetarian dishes using ‘Quorn’ products which influenced me to become a ‘Vegetarian’ for a while. I used to visit her flat filled with colourful interior decors and abstract paintings (and Buddha statues) in cosy spaces. I particularly liked her own design on her bathroom walls where I often spent extra minutes admiring. She always used big bold fonts to write something as if those letters emitted her energy and zeal for life. ‘Happy Chrimbo’ cards from her are safely tucked away.

The day we all said our last farewell, she was inside the huge wicker basket decorated with countless bright yellow sunflowers all around it just like a scene from ‘Il girasole’. Her favourite music was playing. No one could hold tears, yet we truly wanted to celebrate her lofty life. And I tried my hardest to stay cheerful too. Thank you my dearest friend. You know what? I now moved and reside in your hometown. I live very close from your mum and your son and your old flat. I walk around, you are everywhere. And I dedicate my version of happy you as ‘COME UN SOLE’.

No.15 – Wellies

No.15 – Wellies

Size 21 inch x 16 inch (51cm x 41cm)

Thursday, 7 January 2021

All I wanted to do was to create a pair of red wellington boots.. So I did. Then I made a person wearing them and holding an umbrella. Okay, I needed rains to falling down on the umbrella. Perhaps a few puddles on the ground too… And finally this character decided to walk a duck-like animal on the leash for fun. One day, my landlady where I used to lived came over to the house and saw this picture on the wall. She grew quite fond of it which made me very flattered.

However, when I asked her 7 year-old daughter’s opinion, it was a totally different story. I was boasting inside of me thinking ‘this type of art should be sought after by children’. Nah!! Not at all. Her face frowned as she was shaking her head to the right and to the left and on and on. Then she whispered into her mother’s ears, I barely could hear. ‘We walk a dog, not a duck!!’, she was protesting. Ah, okay. Got it. Of course. Not a funny matter to her.

In fact, I felt as if I was scolded by her my attitude toward life in general. We must listen to them and respect their visions and insights as they are our teachers. They are much much wiser and we owe them a better world than ones we are living in now. By the way, before I came to the UK for the first time, one of my many send off gifts was a book called ‘Rules, Britannia’ written by Toni Summers Hargis (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, New York).

It’s been a long time since I read it so can’t remember if the word ‘wellies’ was in the book or not. Basically, the author is explaining how the Queen’s English differs from the American’s. And thanks to the book, I could have a smooth transition (well, sort of). It is definitely a myth, England = rainy everyday. Overcast, more than anything, but actual precipitation is less than in Japan I read somewhere. Again, my title is not an Italian, but it’s ok. This art piece pays respect for my beloved wellies and England.

No.33 – Stuck!

No. 33 – Stuck!

Size 6.5 inch x 8.5 inch (16cm x 21cm)

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

From yesterday, we are in the 3rd Nationwide lockdown. Compare to where I was mentally during the 1st lockdown, I feel much stronger and freer now. Having said that though, I suddenly remembered this abstract piece I have created when I was feeling so ‘stuck’ and no way out. As I explained before, the Italian titles definitely capture my emotion of each creativity well. But I just could not find any other language other than to say ‘stuck’ in English to fit to my psyche perfectly.

My youngest son also reminded me that origami paper are physically stuck to the frame – ‘a good point’. It was interesting to note my middle son’s first impression. He said it is a positive picture with 3 happy people. We all observe art piece from the angle based on our own experiences and perspectives. So in a way I was glad to know he is a very optimistic individual! Or, whatever I create, I can’t help but to implicitly convey inherent joy of life?

I came across with a beautiful writing by my mentor Sensei Ikeda. He says:

“Life is painful. It has thorns, like the stem of a rose. Culture and art are the roses that bloom on the stem. The flower is yourself, your humanity. Art is the liberation of the humanity inside yourself” (website: https://www.daisakuikeda.org)