August 12, 2014

I almost didn't recognize you.

It has not been that long since I started making art for 'the masses'. I figure the real start was around 2006, when I moved into the place where I still reside. Tae, the lovely woman who would become my wife, was due to visit my house for the first time and the place was painfully sparse. I did not have any dining room furniture to speak of. My living room consisted of about 16 feet worth of workbench space and a tall, narrow shelving unit which housed a rinky-dink TV and a couple gaming consoles. I had no bed. I think I had a hand-me-down dresser... Most striking, I had nothing on any of the apartment walls.

What, I thought, could I do to make my apartment more presentable? Furniture, I knew, would cost money. Being impoverished, I decided homemade art was the solution. Some sort of painting was going to be the key in my drive to gussy up the pad as the date of my guest's arrival loomed. So, what to paint?

A samurai! Of course! Japanese girl... Japanese subject matter... It would be a cinch. I thought. Wrongly. Not having delved into Japanese art much further than some anime and 1 or 2 Kurosawa films, my memories from which to draw inspiration from were, surprisingly, more barren than my house. My solution was to do a painting based upon one I had seen in a book. While the original would certainly look far superior to what I ended up with, the final piece was indeed pleasing.

I painted it on a 2' x 4' scrap of cabinet-grade birch plywood that I scored on a construction site. Armed with acrylics and a circular saw, I did a valiant job of creating a statement of my capabilities with this one project. Having this hanging opposite the door as you entered the apartment made my home far more welcoming. It hangs in our living room to this day.

Although the art was not created for public consumption, it was the spark that lit that flame. I was finally aware of painting and my ability to utilize it with effectiveness. There would still be a couple years before I would hang my art in a gallery for the first time, but it was not long afterwards that I created my first piece for someone who was not me. 

The shop shown above is located at 2843 University Avenue. Owned by Mr. Simon Wong, the space houses all manner of items from the far east. Statuettes, figurines, vases, swords, clothing, paintings... as I said, all manner of items. And, according to the rave reviews on Yelp, Kam Fung is the only place one need visit when making the move to create a feng shui living space. It was Simon who received the art I am eluding to.

Having enjoyed a casual, friendly relationship with one another for a couple years, I was happy to oblige when Simon asked me to paint something on a cabinet door he possessed. I took the wood home and, with Tae's help, stripped it of the existing paint and finish on the panel. Finally, with the prep work complete, it was time to be creative. Initially, I did not have any ideas about what I should paint.  Looking back, I believe that my habit of letting the 'canvas' dictate what shall be painted was likely born at this point. After staring at the door for a great deal of time, the image, in all its randomness, became clear in my mind. Although I did not know it, the creation given life on Simon's cabinet door had all the hallmarks of future artwork I would eventually produce.

Recently, I have been toying with the idea of using the term 'nansensu' (nonsense) as the name of my personal style. I think the sign shown here is a perfect example. The banner at the top advertises a shop that caters to soldiers (Bushi), offering discount clothing and supplies. Below the enormous setting sun, the wandering ronin gives testimony to some of the features that make this his one-stop trading post: They rent boats, they offer hot baths and, for customers who prefer it, this establishment accepts personal checks! It is an additional bonus to learn that such a market is open 7 days each week, 24 hours a day.

I ran into Simon out of the blue last weekend. Remembering the cabinet door, and wishing to see it after so many years, I inquired about it. I was delighted to learn it still hung in his house. I was further excited to hear he would bring it to his shop so that I could get the photo of it which, foolishly, I had failed to get back then. The icing on this already delicious cake is the fact that, today, he let me take it home for a few days. This will allow me to get a good photo, for sure. Also, the extended borrow-time will let me reconnect with a piece of my personal history. Nansensu jya nai..