Among the Petals a White Serpent

 

size: 8 x 10 inches
medium: cut and torn washi and chiyogami paper on wood panel

 

First and foremost, an extremely belated あけましておめでとうございます / Happy New Year!

Also, A slightly less-belated Happy Chinese New Year! It's fortuitous that I only missed the latter holiday by a few days - it makes my posting of this piece seem almost like it was planned.

Coming off of a year full of dragons, it felt natural to slither right into some snake art. Drawing-wise, there are a lot of similarities. Long and sinuous bodies, scales, curves... eyes. Of course, there are quite a few differences as well. Japanese dragons have hair while snakes are happily bald. Dragons have claws and fingers; serpents have a tougher time with forks and spoons. The biggest difference is one of scale (pun unapologetically intended). Dragons are massive while the Japanese rat snake, upon whom our reptilian friend here is based, could easily hide under your sofa.

In Japan the white snake is considered to be a carrier of good luck - a person who finds one will be lucky for life ( 1, 2 ). Like many Japanese New Years symbols, they herald the coming of good financial fortune. I plan on displaying this guy all year round. The ume plum blossom 「梅」 is a harbinger of Spring, and thus a common theme on New Year's cards. The pinkish ribbon intertwined with the snake at the top marks this piece as a part of my recent (and future?) solo exhibition, All Runs Together. It is a band of energy, of light, of life or soul which runs through all of the pieces, connecting them into one infinite and eternally evolving whole. But more on that later.

Visually, I had a lot of fun here. As with many of my Chinese zodiac pieces, I wanted to do something a bit more graphically flat. The scales are borrowed from a real Japanese white snake, but instead of curving around the body run straight, as if they continue on into infinity in every direction. The plum blossoms are inspired by Japanese pottery patterns with their simplified, representative shapes (the centers are torn bits of many different chiyogami patterns). Look hard, and you will see the kanji character for the snake: 巳. There are actually 2 kanji for each of the zodiac animals; the typical everyday version, and the one more commonly used for the zodiac (as seen above).