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Art & Life with Dwight Hwang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dwight Hwang.

Dwight, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My obsessive love for fishing and my artistic ambitions all came together during my many years in Japan on a visit to a cramped, dusty tackle shop in Tokyo. Pinned onto he walls and the ceiling were wrinkled sheets of rice paper with inked impressions of prized catches.

I was taken aback by what I saw but knew nothing about this unique cultural art called ‘Gyotaku’ of taking the actual fish, brushing sumi ink onto it and then rubbing a thin sheet of rice paper to create the image. With no one to teach me, I simply resorted to experimenting with sheets of cheap calligraphy paper and discount bottles of sumi ink. The results looked like messy black blotches that vaguely resembled what I was trying to print.

Together with my wife, we continued to print fish on the floor of our tiny apartment for years until there came a day when I realized that the fish may be the subject of the print, but it was also a tool in of itself. It’s that realization that would help me control the process to the point that not only did the prints begin to resemble his memorable catches, but also gave me the confident flexibility to add what I hoped would set me apart; a sense of life, perspective and movement. I strictly use only the old-world materials of hand ground sumi ink and handmade washi paper, while striving to always develop my process based on techniques used hundreds of years ago.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Gyotaku is a unique, cultural art form that was developed in Japan hundreds of years ago by those that would seek out a way to document a catch by not simply writing about it, but by cleverly brushing calligraphy ink onto the surface of the fish and then placing a sheet of thin, delicate rice paper onto it to create the image.

The process, at its base, is very simple. Brush ink on, rub paper onto that and lift. But with all things that one is obsessed and passionate about, we’ve developed techniques and fine-tuned our process to create an image that is not only clean and beautiful, but more importantly to us; a print of a dead fish that will convey a strong sense of life, movement and emotion.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
When it comes to art and fishing, it’s almost always been something that I did alone. Sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by choice. And it can be very daunting when the loved ones in your life are the loudest voices against what you feel inspired to do. I think for me, the most important step I had to take was to step back and decide that I would continue at my own pace and not try to meet anyone else’s expectations. To follow the path that inspires me and makes me happy. There are kindred spirits out there that feel exactly the same way as you. Ones that will love to share their experiences of art rather than to compete. Find them.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My website is fishingforgyotaku.com But it’s my Instagram account (which is also found on my website) that is constantly updated with current images. I sell prints, both original and reproductions, through Etsy and directly. Also, gallery exhibitions and demonstrations have been asked me a lot lately, so if you’re in the area of one of those, it’s a great experience to see original prints and the process in person.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dwight Hwang, Hazel HS Hwang, Archi Prudencio.

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