I find that sometimes Fiction is the best way to paint big paintings.
During my time in South Korea, I wrote a novel called PAPER SAMURAI. It’s about an artist from South Korea named Sangha. The plot deals with some major themes that I believe all artists face. I wrote it as my homage to a country I love very much. So the edition that exists now includes an English and Korean Language version. The languages are featured side by side in one copy. I was lucky to have another gifted artist, Oh Ji Hyeon, a talented writer of fiction, to translate the novel from English to Korean. Thanks again Ji Hyeon for your brilliant interpretation and translation.
I am a South African, now living back in South Africa after many years away. I am painting a lot these days. While painting, I have been digesting the past year. From time to time, I have thought about my story Paper Samurai. I think in retrospect, writing Paper Samurai was a way for me to paint a really big painting. With words, I explored my own development and creativity in relation to Sangha’s story and character, and to his art. I found it a brilliant way to try understand composition from another person’s point of view. Although in this case the other person was a character I created, Sangha. So I painted and composed through Sangha and my art grew alongside his story. I ended up composing paintings in response to expereinces in the plot that I would normally not have thought about. So writing Paper Samurai was a creative journey on many levels that ultimately helped develop my awareness of how creative we can be in shaping our realities. Elif Şafak is a Turkish author, columnist, speaker and academic who once said so powerfully:
“ I think it was a wonderful paradigm shift. And yet, why is it that, in creative writing courses today, the very first thing we teach students is “write what you know”? Perhaps that’s not the right way to start at all. Imaginative literature is not necessarily about writing who we are or what we know or what our identity is about. We should teach young people and ourselves to expand our hearts and write what we can feel. We should get out of our cultural ghetto and go visit the next one and the next.”
I could not know what paintings Sangha’s story would inspire in me, but I think I started writing this story because I felt creativite curiousity about the world beyond my ”cultural ghetto”. Urging me to expand, and explore, and see what was possible when it came to painting big paintings. I am grateful to the writing process for allowing me to delve in what I feel is the exquisite mode of art called Fiction.
Paper Samurai is a grand canvas that someday you may read. For now, I would love to share a short excerpt that might paint a small section of Paper Samurai for you: Sangha is in Morocco, sitting on a rock in the sun.
…When he was out of sight, I put down my pad and pencil to savor the solitude. The day was already hot. I took off my shirt and shoes, rolled up my pants, and digested the scene before me. There were no trees in sight. The tones were all browns and yellows. It was very different to the greens of my homeland and my youth. It was a great contrast. I felt very far away from the boy who had wandered forests in search of the world. In the immensity of open space, I closed my eyes and images of Yoshi and our cottage flooded back. I heard his words and my heart filled with longing for his counsel. Far away from that, I forced myself to open my eyes and allowed the desert to burn away that longing.
The desert was absolutely silent. Abdullah’s stories returned to me. I wanted to ease his suffering. This urge gave me a profound sense of release. I recognized the open heart of both suffering and compassion, longing and belonging. We were human. The simplicity of our connection calmed my thoughts. I picked up my pencil.
“You are growing up now. You should heed the freedom call of your restlessness.” I ran a line along the horizon without lifting the pencil. “There is much to know and see, but don’t let that stop you from being here and seeing this.” I pulled another line for the next row of hills. “Gather yourself in these clouds and know that you are not here to do anything, but experience.” I drew the outline of a hardy shrub holding its little purple flowers to the sun. “There is no obligation, you have all that you need. You are where you are.” A lizard tracked the sun up a slab of stone and became comfortable. “No expectations. There is no place like home.” I captured the lizard in my mind and then freed it in the foreground. “You are human and humans like to hold onto things. Fear has groomed us well to believe the illusion. Therein lies the loop whole.” I put shadows under the rocks. “Don’t be scared pussy-cat. It’s only scary because we’re still trying to see through the veils of a flag, a language, a time, borders, and popular judgments.” My pencil swept loosely, pouring the light from the zenith over the page. “Know you are free here, now, and that here exists and will exist regardless of how we choose to see. You feeling bad or lost? Ask yourself, ‘Where am I?’ and you will remember.”
I touched my heart, as Abdullah did when something touched his. These curious words were encouraging, but the voice was not Yoshi’s. I exhaled as I realized that the voice was my own. It was a mirror image of the desert, clean of any desire or boastfulness. I looked out at the horizon and then down at the paper on my lap. It was beautiful.” (Paper Samurai – Moroccan Tapestries – pg 141)
So if you would like to read/paint more Paper Samurai – click here. The link will take you to the books website where you can order hard/soft copies/E-book.
Hope you like the read.
Peace and love be on your journey
P.s. Below is the Paper Samurai synopsis in both English and Korean:
Abandoned as a baby, Sangha is adopted by an old blind man living as a hermit in the mountains of South Korea. Yoshigawa, his guardian and teacher, is a well traveled doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and a devout Taoist. As Sangha grows up using his sight for the benefit of two people, he develops a unique sense of perception. This perception manifests in his drawings and paintings. When his talents are recognised by a wealthy collector, he gets the opportunity to travel the world giving substance to his mentor’s teachings. Through England and France, Morocco, South Africa, and the United States, the young artist’s journey of self realization highlights humanity’s creative potential. Sangha’s story reveals how we, as creators, are all part of every color on this beautiful palette.
어렸을 때 버려진 상하는 한국의 산 속에서 은둔하며 살아가던 눈이 멀고 나이 든 한 남자에게 입양된다. 그의 보호자이자 스승인 요시가와는 견문이 넓은 전통 한의학자로, 독실한 도교 신자다. 두 사람의 눈이 되어주며 성장하는 과정에서 상하는 남다른 통찰력을 키운다. 그의 그림과 스케치가 이러한 감각들을 분명하게 보여준다. 어느 부유한 수집가에게 그의 재능을 인정받자, 스승에게 받았던 가르침을 직접 경험해 볼 여행의 기회가 생긴다. 영국을 지나 프랑스, 모로코, 남아공, 그리고 미국에 걸쳐, 이 젊은 예술가가 겪는 자아실현의 여정이 인류의 창의적인 잠재력을 돋보이게 한다. 상하의 이야기는, 우리가 창조자로서 어떻게 이 아름다운 팔레트 위의 다양한 색깔로 하나가 되는지 보여준다.