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!
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…
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).
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?
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’.
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.
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)
At last! 2020 is behind us and we finally welcomed 2021 with open arms. One of my new year’s resolutions is to be more creative and not to belittle myself. My mentor in life, Sensei Daisaku Ikeda (a president of the lay Buddhist organisation called SGI – website: https://www.daisakuikeda.org) turned 93 years old. Sensei always inspires me to live my daily life with innermost freedom through manifesting ‘courage, wisdom and compassion’. It’s okay I am different. There is no need for me to compare to others.
When I created this picture, I just wanted it to be extremely bright and cheerful. And I never intended the background to look like Sakura (cherry blossom) by the water, but since it did, the title was inevitably named ‘LA PRIMAVERA’. I don’t usually use shades of pink much. Here’s an episode. When I was in elementary school (grade 5 or 6) one day we were doing water colour painting in the art class. I don’t remember exactly what the theme was for our task, most likely it was a ‘still life’ style art.
After school that day, my mother quite unexpectedly got a phone call from my art teacher concerning about me, if I had some type of domestic issues at home. What triggered the teacher’s worrisome was that I painted the whole picture in colours nothing but grey, black, white and brown. And my theme was bottles of bourbon whiskies and a glass on a table! It was all imaginary of course, but I don’t blame the poor teacher thinking something was seriously wrong with me!! Well, I was fine. I was a bit different.
And my mother felt so proud (bless her) and kept it along with my school transcripts into my adulthood. I am now curious how she convinced my teacher I was a normal girl. Back to my bright and cheerful picture. It was an image of a tall high school boy with very long legs standing next to a car (the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet) I wanted to create and everything else appeared spontaneously. We must live with hope, no matter how harsh the winter we experience, spring will never fail to arrive (Nichiren).
For my middle son’s birthday gift this year, I asked him for a theme to ignite my inspiration. ‘Mononoke’!, he said. Amongst Miyazaki’s heart-warming films, his favourite has always been ‘the Princess Mononoke’ without a doubt. So I thought it’s fair but what do I do? Then I decided to solely rely on the image in my head what I remember from the story. As a result, my human character appears to be a mixture of San and Ashitaka. I am definitely confused Shishigami with Yakul (Ashitaka’s red elk)!
Anyway, the most important thing was I have succeeded to transmit the image from my head onto a picture frame by cutting and collating origami pieces. When my son finally saw the work over the Skype, he looked very puzzled. ‘Oh no! He doesn’t like it at all!’ – a sharp fear of rejection pierced through me at the moment just by surmising his befuddled reaction. After 5 seconds as if it felt like an eternity, he uttered words. Basically his image of ‘Mononoke’ was nothing but green forests. He was simply taken aback to see more colours and details rather than all greenery in the picture but he really likes it how it turned out (according to him).
Well, I must confess now. Actually I tried to create more forests throughout adding different shades of greens which can be seen at the top left corner of the picture. But I got bored and moved on creating other figures in the picture and never went back to add more greens. A sabotage. Compromised. That is why I felt like my son’s perplexed look judged me as a failure even though we have never discussed how the picture should be turned out. So we should never fool ourselves. In the creative world, we must go fino in fondo.
It’s the time of the year again. Every year I was looking forward to the 1st December to decorate my tree with the Kaethe Wohlfahrt ornaments I collect. I sometime came across with one of their stores during my city (summer) break trip to the places like Berlin and Bruges and had to (yes always a must!) buy one or two ornaments. Sadly not this year. I even forgot to search any new editions online. I guess no Santa for me either. Just like my picture, he is stuck saying ‘QUASI LA’ but not quite here for me!!
Speaking of a gift, my memory of my late father being a Santa during my childhood is a strange one. I don’t think my family seriously celebrated the Christmas but I have a vivid image of one Christmas morning. I woke up and spotted a huge, plastic steam engine toy kids can ride on. What on earth Santa got me a boy’s toy? There is no boy in the family. I was so confused but definitely remember my father’s proud shinny face. He wanted a son, my mother used to tell me. No wonder I grew up learning to play baseball, to fish, to bowl, to play chess, to build models, and to play guitar. No wonder I could never fit in the ‘girlie girlie’ talks in schools. It’s all good though. Thanks dad, I miss you…