‘Why do you follow my son around?’ ‘Because I like mites’ – Edible and Non-Edible Persons of Waba and Pompakleen Phoenix Gallery
Exeter Phoenix is pleased to present this solo exhibition of recent work by Devon-based artist Huhtamaki Wab who works across painting, sculpture, video and performance. This sculptural and performative installation presents a series of gongs, which will be played by the artist at various stages throughout the exhibition. These will sit amongst new paintings and fabric banner works.
Huhtamaki Wab’s practice operates within an animistic and non-anthropocentric world, whereby objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and humans are not automatically regarded as the most important element of existence. Wab creates landscapes that are populated by interconnected spirits and humans to create ecstatic realities, which are heavily informed by the animistic culture from his birthplace of Japan. Influences are drawn equally from depictions of yokai (a class of monsters and spirits in Japanese folklore) represented in traditional ukiyo-e prints and from contemporary representations of this heritage in cultures such as manga.
Huhtamaki was born in Tokyo, Japan. A move to rural Devon has revitalised his acute connection to the landscape. Engaging physically through walking the moors, swimming in rivers as well as making rituals and offerings within these spaces both entangle and inform Wab’s life, well-being and art making.
The show’s lengthy and intriguing title relates to a number of personal experiences Wab has had with ”spirits”, many of which have occurred since starting a process of recovery from addiction in 2019, and take place in spaces where the boundaries between the dream world and waking word are indistinguishable.The quote in the show’s title is drawn from an experience Wab’s mother had in just such a space, in which she met a young boy spirit who follows her son (the artist), around.
‘She asks why he follows me around and the spirit answers, ”Because I like mites”. Wab sees this as a direct reference to behaviours of addiction, mites inhabiting places where it is dirty, and where, by extension, to be ”clean’ is a way of being where this spirit will not follow him.
Artist Talk Sat 22 May | 1.4pm | free (booking essential)
Join the artist Huhtamaki Wab as he discusses the exhibition and his wider practice. This talk is free, but booking is essential. The artists talk will take place in our cinema Studio 74 and will be a socially distanced event. The talk will be free, but booking is essential.
Launch: Residue of Ghosts and Offerings Sat 26 Jun | 3pm | free
Join us, on the final weekend of Huhtamaki Wab’s Phoenix Gallery exhibition, to celebrate the launch of this multi-platform project exploring art for the ‘more than human’. Grab a free copy of the project zine and enjoy a short story recital, film screening and q&a.
A short video by Huhtamaki Wab that may act as an introduction to his exhibition, in which he shares food and conversation with his mother and prepares work in his studio.
About the artist
Huhtamaki Wab lives and works in Devon, UK. He was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1984 and graduated from Chelsea College of Arts, 2008.
He employs a wry humour to situate himself and his practice in relation to the institutional art world, which is exemplified through his choice of adopted name, Huhtamaki, an alias taken from the base of a disposable cup from the Tate. A move to rural Devon has revitalised his acute connection to the landscape. Engaging physically through walking the moors, swimming in rivers as well as making rituals and offerings within these spaces both entangle and inform Wab’s life, well-being and art making. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 16, later experiencing periods of addiction, the worlds he creates are integral to his on-going recovery, providing a space for being with and solace.
Wab has a keen interest in art made outside of the institution, collecting artworks from markets and car boots mostly created by unknown makers. Known as the Genius Treasure Collection, it was displayed in London as a public museum in his bedroom between 2018 and 2019.
In March 2021, we released a video in which artist Huhtamaki Wab activates his sculptural installation ‘To see waba in all creations’ (2020), performing alongside a video tour of the exhibition in Exeter Phoenix’s gallery. You can watch the video here >>
We are also pleased to offer a new, affordable, limited edition Giclée print of Huhtamaki Wab’s extraordinary painting ‘We are all coral. All lichen. Waba here on earth. Don’t wear trousers to keep your knees separate. Pompakleen. Word up’ (2020), printed on environmentally friendly bamboo fibre paper. You can find our more and purchase one here >>
Scroll through a series of installation shots from the exhibition.
Main image: Huhtamaki Wab, ”We are all coral, all lichen. Waba here on earth. Don’t wear trousers to keep your knees separate. Word up”, 2020. 60″x50″, oil on canvas.
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