The world is a small place, certainly for me. How I came into contact with Shoji Tanka and his International Fantastic Art Association is one of those twists of fate, six degrees, or what ever you please.
In 2002 I was contacted by the graphic designer Laetitia Hoffman. Before the days of professional networking websites such LinkedIn or Xing, she like many of use were searching the internet for other people that she could freelance for. Unfortunately at the time, I myself was looking for projects and so could not help her. Time moves on some five years later and I recieve an email, again from Latetita. Not having any contact with her since our brief exchange of emails, I had to dig through my archived emails to verify who she was. It was a surprise to hear from her again after so long, but more surprising was the story she had to tell.
Laetitia related to me that she was recently in Japan studying woodblock printing. While attending the course, she met the Japanese artist, Shoji Tanaka. In the course of getting to know each other she was showing him her website and they happened to visit one the links she has, which led them to me. I am very grateful to Laetita that she keep the link to my website, because Shoji indicated to her that he would like to contact me. Thus began a few months exchanges of emails with Laetita translating between Shoji and myself.
Shoji is the director of the International Fantastic Art Association. His group is dedicated to creating opportunities for Japanese fantastic artists and ultimately bringing them to the wider world. To date he has organize two exhibitions and printed accompanying catalogs for the IFAA.
It was while looking at some of the images from the last exhibition on the IFAA website, I saw some artwork that looked very familiar. Sure enough upon further investigation, it was the artwork of my friend Luigi La Speranza. Again the degrees of separation lessened, as I recalled Luigi had previously made mention of a Japanese exhibition. Now, suddenly, I knew exactly what he was referring to.
Through Laetitia's wonderful assistance interpretting or communications, she informed me that Shoji was again planning an exhibition for 2008, and that for this exhibition he would invite two foreign artists to exhibit and attend. One of them being Luigi and the other, myself. How surprised I was when I learnt of this. Laetitia also informed me that Shoji would be traveling to Europe later in the year, and that he would like to meet me.
And so it came to pass that Shoji and his wife Seiko came to visit me along with a translator. I had understood that some Japanese could be very formal, and so I phone my friends Peter and Leanne who had lived in Japan for a year for advice on etiquette. This proved unnecessary as they stepped from the car it was all smiles and handshakes. With the translator communicating for us, I had my first inkling of just how lost I might be when in Japan, not being able to speak the language or read the writing.
Shoji stayed for a few hours, and we discussed the exhibition, much about Fantastic art and artists, and what other opportunities there were for us all. We both agreed that there should be more co-operation between the various Fantastic groups around the world, and that we would do what we could to help that. We also discussed the possibility of future world Fantastic exhibition and how this might begin.
I learnt that in Japan, just as in other countries, we artists are similar, being closeted away in our studios and having little contact with others. However there are a growing number of us who are turning to the internet to connect and organize, such as that happened with us.
Finally after taking a some photos in the studio, they all left to continue their journey, and leaving me to contemplate mine next year to Japan.
The future is very exciting.