On "Sea Beyond" Triptych
In my recent exhibit in New York, I exhibited a triptych spanning more than thirty-three feet called Sea Beyond...I had been inspired by the sea horizons on the Newport Beach area where my daughter resided at the time. I decided to severly restrict the materials - to only one- the oyster Gofun materials of ancient Japan.
The Gofun technique is one of the hardest to master. It requires pulverizing oyster shells into a fine powder and then mixing that powder with a glue using mortar and pestle. The resulting white mixture has one of the most magical, unique qualities unlike any other whites commercially available. Depending on the treatment in creating the mixture, the artist can control the opacity and transparency at the same time. In other words, I believe I can paint the spectrum of colors using Gofun materials.
The Sea Beyond triptych has more than a hundred layers, but in order to appreciate that, the viewer needs to slow down, as our eyes are driven to make quick interpretations...
...I received a call from my brother notifying me that my mother had passed away suddenly...I went to the beach to pray, looking out at the horizon. And it occurred to me to ask, "What is beyond the horizon?" I meant not figuratively, but literally. When I Googled this question, I was astonished to discover that from where I stood, I was looking directly at Kamakura, Japan (where my mother raised me).
Excerpt from "Art+Faith: A Theology of Making" (Yale Press, 2021)
Lux Aeterna - Hope
After 9/11, there was one piece of music that was played over and over on classical stations.
As I wrestled with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as a survivor (having lived three blocks away), Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna continued to hover over me and allowed me to move into my pain again, haunting me and releasing me on a difficult day. I hear the dissonance of brokenness, and yet, like gold in a Kintsugi bowl (venerable Japanese tea tradition of mending broken vessels with Japan lacquer and gold), mending to make New. In a particularized way, the music highlighted and captured a single line in John 11, the shortest sentence in the entire Bible.
These words frame central thesis in my new book “Art+Faith: A Theology of Making” (Yale University Press)
Two small (8'x8") red panels by the window for "Re-sonance" exhibit, are called "Junan - Lux" and "Junan - Eterna". Junan, in Japanese, means "Passion, suffering", and they frame the windows at High Line Nine Gallery, anticipating the Live Painting collaboration with Susie Ibarra. After the live painting, the large paintings (48"x60") panels will be placed on the floor with Fumi-e used on the set of Martin Scorsese's "Silence" film, accentuating the vulnerable relationship that the works will have with the viewer. The "Passion" panels will connect the Suffering with testing of faith, as we wait for the revealing of Lux Aeterna.
This painting was done at the height of the pandemic, and is dedicated to my bride Haejin Shim Fujimura, an attorney dedicating her life to serving the needs of the oppressed community in the red-light district of India through www.embersinternational.org to end the scourge of human trafficking in our generation. Originally titled "Christmas 2020", I decided to retitle, desiring to infuse hope into the title itself - hope that the painting itself points to.
There are small prints at the exhibit in the entry donated entirely to the effort of Embers International, to rescue children and their mothers from the red light district of Mumbai, and help educate them through private school system that we have helped to set up (through Sahase Embers School). During the Pandemic, we were able to raise enough funds to feed 1.7 million meals in barricaded areas of Mumbai.
How could one paint anything joyous, and extravagant during such a time as this? Can we see Christmas? Can we see Christmas even in the decrepit darknesses of the world, stricken of hope? I layered multiple layers of quartz and white ruby pigments on top of a unique combination of refractive gesso and azurite. Painting, to me, is a prayer, asking the impossible questions in the midst of our "Ground Zero" conditions of loss, to assume the abundance of beauty in the midst of scarcity. Art seeks the impossible.