One of the pen drawings included in the series “life per leaf” was selected for the latest episode of the Member’s Minute, VI.
It has been fun to watch this episode because Matt explains about how this particular piece has become a successful one despite the fact that it does not follow many “rules” considered to be necessary for artworks to be successful. I think this Member’s Minute episode is all about encouraging artists to break the rules so that they can go beyond the limitations they put to themselves. And I have to say that I feel pretty honoured that my work has been selected to prove this particular point.

This is because I have been seeing somewhat depressing trend going on in the areas where I currently live. After spending 20 something years in Tokyo, I came back to my old hometown to take care of my mother. I am sort of “semi-retired” from my corporate life and right now my major interest is in specifically how I can newly establish my second life stage as an artist. So, I have been working hard to plan and execute my exhibitions and participation in a flea market where I offered a little pen-drawing workshop. This has been to determine how much of my resources should be put in my local activities; if the responses to my activities are very positive, I would like to spend more of my resources to my activities targeted to local people and community. If not, I need to concentrate more on global-oriented efforts to establish my position as an artist. At this point of time, looks like I have no choice but to take the latter path, because I see there is a clear trend around here that anything, not only art-related activities, but literally “anything”, with the motivation to cheer up the local town suffering from depopulation has a much greater value compared to anything else.

While I was looking for some venues for my exhibitions, I had a chance to talk with my younger artist friend who has been doing a lot of exhibitions around this area. I picked up some restaurants, cafes, and some other facilities with space which can be used as a gallery. About one particular venue, she was strongly against using the place saying that the owner is heavily local-oriented person and takes an extremely sassy attitude towards artists who do not share his preference. It is very weird, but the owner does not refuse artists who have different ideas, but only becomes very unkind to them. One of her artist friends was left waiting outside for half an hour under the heavy snow when he went to the restaurant for the installation of his works because the owner did not show up at the appointed time. The artist called him and somehow his wife took the phone and she came to the restaurant to open the door. The restaurant owner did not say a single word of apology for this rudeness. While the artist’s exhibition was going on, the owner closed the restaurant frequently other than on the regular holidays. He made a brief, businesslike announcement on the facebook page that the artist’s exhibition was open only on the first day and kept ignoring it until the closure date. But when a local-oriented artist used the same venue after this artist, he took a lot of photos of the artist while he hung his works on the wall, shared the photos on sns, introduced the artist and his works with rave review, emphasizing how eagerly he wanted to support the highly-talented artist. My artist friend showed me the photos of the works of the former artist and the latter. To me, at least, it was evident that the former artist’s works were much more worthy of looking at because the works of the latter artist were nothing but a flattery on some locally popular subjects.

So, my artist friend and her peer artists altogether were determined not to use this restaurant any longer. Not only for their exhibitions, but also for meals. Listening to this story, I also gave up the idea of using this venue because it was just so obvious that the venue did not deserve my art.

I find it really amusing that the restaurant owner thinks that he can do something to “support” this local-oriented artist. He is not actually supporting the artist at all by what he is doing, i.e.:
a) Unfortunately, his restaurant is by no means a “red-hot” restaurant.
b) It is very unlikely that somebody, including the owner himself, who has the power to broadly spread the word about the artist visits the restaurant.
c) It is also very unlikely that the owner can offer the artist any sort of financial patronage because…you know what.
d) Lastly, and this is very important, he is trying to mold the artist into the owner’s liking by emphasizing so strongly that the owner is going to label an artist “highly-talented” as long as the artist is local-oriented no matter how poor the quality of the artist’s works is.

So, all in all, what this restaurant owner is doing brings much more harm than benefits to artists. Generally speaking, you cannot provide people with really meaningful support just following your emotions. It takes intelligence, it takes sound judgement, it takes a broad and well-balanced view to support anybody in an effective way. The behavior of this restaurant owner shows that he lacks everything. And when the support is not effective, you are actually causing them trouble.

My artist friend did not particularly mention this, but I am under the impression that someone like the restaurant owner is not rare around this area. I have been checking some local newspapers and it is evident that local-oriented artists have much more frequent coverage on newspapers compared to other types of artists. Given the pretty low-level IT literacy of people living around here, the newspaper coverage has a great influence on whether or not you can establish your position as an artist here. I am by no means a local-oriented artist, which means I will be placed in an unduly low position here.

Which, for sure, is not something I am going to accept. This is such a disgusting plus stupid situation that I am almost thinking about withdrawing all my planned local activities in the future. But the manager of the gallery which is to be used for my largest exhibition in May has a totally different idea about art and artist and I remember how brilliant the exhibition of Ken Chiba at her gallery was. So I think I should at least stick to my plan to have an exhibition at her gallery in May, but after that, I will probably stop doing any local exhibitions but focus more on the internet activities plus the production of my new animated film.

So, the “rules” considered to be necessary for artworks to be successful here is solely to pick up the local subjects. And the rules to be successful as an artist is to manifest your faith that local-oriented art is the one and only valuable art and that you are going to devote yourself to it. Actually I am pretty curious to see how somebody like this restaurant owner will react if any of the local-oriented artists whom he has been “supporting” start creating something different.
And as to the artists, I hope they remember the words that the road to hell is paved with good intentions before it is too late and take the chance to break the rules, i.e., the very local rules to produce “successful” pieces of artworks.