Friday, May 28, 2010

Mounting the Dohyo

Continuing the dainty daily sumo paintings... a little more history about the match preparation paraphrased from wikipedia, "On mounting the dohyō, which takes its name from the straw rice bag which mark out different parts the ring, the wrestler performs a number of rituals derived from Shinto practice. Facing the audience, he claps his hands and then performs the leg-stomping shiko exercise to drive evil spirits from the dohyō as the "Gyōji, or referee, who will coordinate the bout announces the wrestlers' names. Stepping out of the ring into their corners, each wrestler is given a ladle full of water, the chikara-mizu ("power water"), with which he rinses out his mouth; and a paper tissue, the chikara-gami ("power paper"), to dry his lips. Then both step back into the ring, squat facing each other, clap their hands, then spread them wide (traditionally to show they have no weapons). Returning to their corners, they each pick up a handful of salt which they toss onto the ring to purify it."
The literal translations of power water and power paper remind me of my early child hood. Running around the woods making forts and popping sweet-tarts claiming they were power-pellets when we needed the extra strength to move a tree or quickness to catch a crawdad. It was ritual to flick them into one's mouth, flex the guns, and if something needed stomping to stomp it. I'm sure it was all due to some strange Pac-man/G.I. Joe/M.A.S.K./He-Man influenced sugar high. Early sumo was a rough-and-tumble affair combining elements of boxing and wrestling with few or no holds barred. I'm sure they would have liked some power-pellets to go along with the water and paper. Especially since there are no weight classes. A wrestler can easily find himself up against an opponent twice his size.
Looking back at some of my favorite paintings made by George Bellows of the Ashcan school, (early enough in the 20th century that New York artists would come to Philadelphia for inspiration) I can see how the physicality and meat-like quality of the pugilists spill into their opponents.
While I enjoy these grisly paintings and have tried to retain some of the "weight" of the opponents, the atmosphere in which I was brought to Sumo wrestling was not as bloody or seedy. Well maybe seedy in a different way. Insinuating how we think of origami and painting these larger than life men on floral origami paper I wanted to emphasize the ritual of the event and juxtapose their girth against an ostensibly fragile plant. Sumo, after all, did have its origins as a Shinto agricultural planting ritual in hopes of a bountiful season. The Sumo ring is topped by a "tsuriyane", or suspended roof, that resembles a Shinto shrine. This diptych is before the match as the dohyo is physically and spiritually cleaned. I have left the standing wrestler "floating" a little to further emphasize this part of the ritual as the wrestlers will become more grounded as they engage.

To purchase these paintings or look at others click HERE.
Next time the Evil Spirits will be driven away!?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another One for the Road

It seems that when everything fails and you keep on trying somebody should just lock you up. Avowing success another figure painter starts down a road of best intentions. What have I gotten myself into? Back from Japan for about a month now and I've decided to start keeping a blog on the works I've been working on from there as well as what they morph into, while hopefully lending some insight into what I'm doing and giving you the reader a chance at the artworks before I sell them in the city. The first series of paintings I've been working on are mix and match sumo diptychs. They are about 4"x5" and are acrylic painted on origami paper mounted on panel. The plan is after compiling 6 sets to issue a small number of related prints and handmade book. As I'm working on these they will lead into how I am approaching a gallery show in Baltimore this September. That will be a busy month of migrating around for sure, with another gig in Savannah. The Sumo paintings are loosely based on the recent matches in Osaka this past March. I've always been intrigued with idea of martial arts and the spiritual mystique of late night black belt theater on T.V. but to be honest I never was into Sumo that much. This changed as I found myself absorbed in watching the televised matches while I was in Japan. Watching over live broadcast I found the matches to be as unreal as those 2 a.m. kung-fu movies. They were, just beautiful. These 2 massive guys enter into a ring, sizing each other up, intimidating each other, slapping themselves like slabs of meat the butcher is showing off, and finally, with speed that is astonishing for these hefty men, they are battling/maneuvering/dancing their opponent by not just brute force but gravitational cunning and in some cases a great deal of grace. Sumo is like a judo match on steroids. As well as combat, sumo is associated with Shinto ritual, and some shrines carry out a ritual dance where a human is said to wrestle with a divine spirit. I've never seen this dance carried out but I choose to imagine it as a Sufi Dervish dance for now. It was also a court ritual called sumai no sechi, where representatives of each province were ordered to attend the contest and fight. On top of that they had to pay for their own way there. Sumo is only practiced officially in Japan but there are a considerable number of foreigners who participate. My favorite being !Baruto! who placed second last March with a 14-1 match record. The Panel on the left has already been sold in conjunction with what will be the last panel in this 12 painting series. Don't despair! There will be 10 more paintings along with a few related prints and a limited edition handmade book of the panels in sequence. To purchase the painting on the right its as easy as clicking HERE which will direct you to my Etsy page! See you in a day or two for the next part. So the beginning of the match starts:

Analytica Tracking: