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Art Japanese

Goldfish Salvation

My friend Matt recently linked me to a blog post introducing “Goldfish Salvation”, an exhibit in London by Japanese artist Fukahori Riusuke. That one link sent me off on a web surfing expedition, culminating in a read through Fukahori’s own words on his original inspiration.

A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation
A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation (Photo by Dominic Alves)

Fukahori paints acrylic pictures of goldfish in containers between layers of resin, creating a lifelike 3D effect. His work is beautiful and powerful. Here’s a blog post detailing the setup of the exhibition, and here is a wonderful collection of photos of the various works. The exhibit’s official site unfortunately tells me that it’s over as of tomorrow. (Will Fukahori show his work elsewhere? Atlanta maybe, hint hint?)

I was interested to see if I could find out whether or not “Goldfish Salvation” was a translation of 金魚救い (kingyo sukui), the Japanese festival tradition of plucking goldfish out of a tank with a circular paper scoop. You have to swoop down just right in order to avoid the scoop getting too wet and breaking, letting the fish fall through it. 救い literally means “help; aid; relief; salvation”, so it’s like you’re saving the goldfish when you manage to do it right and take one home.

On Fukahori’s official page, I discovered that “Goldfish Salvation” does indeed make that direct reference…but it has a double meaning.

Fukahori had been thinking of giving up on art. Try as he might, he couldn’t find inspiration. He slumped across his bed in defeat, and as he lay there, he happened to see his pet goldfish Kinpin. He’d scooped her at a festival seven years prior. Staring down at her from above her tank, he thought about all she’d endured, and yet she’d kept going, kept living, growing to 20 centimeters in length. At that moment she was beautiful and strange to him.

He started painting, using her as a model. And when he was done he’d painted so many goldfish. “This is it,” he thought.

僕の探していた答えが、ヨーロッパでもなく、アメリカでもなく、まさにこの部屋にあった。
僕は、この日の出来事を「金魚救い」と呼んで大切にしている。

The answer I’d been searching for wasn’t in Europe. It wasn’t in America. It was right here in this room.

Since then, I’ve held precious the events of this day, calling them 金魚救い.

The goldfish he’d “saved” seven years ago at the festival had now saved him.

Goldfish Salvation.