Suki Mae

I mentioned there was a woman up the street who had a little store who wrote cute little inspirational words on small paintings. She wanted 300,000 for a very small picture around 25x25cm, but I thought it was ok. But when I took her what I wanted printed, she freaked. I wanted three characters in Japanese kana, and she gave me the guy’s card who painted them, but said he would not do Japanese. I sighed and thanked her and walked back down the street.

In Bui Vien there are many studios. These studios employ artists, but they do not really make original art. They are given designs and told precisely what to paint, and some of them even start with it drawn out beforehand, paint-by-numbers style. Some however are massively talented and they draw some of the most stunning artworks you would ever see. They also paint some brilliant cultural ones, featuring District 1 landmarks and even the streets of Pham Ngu Lao overlaid over pictures of cyclos etc. They’re great.

But they also sometimes have some pop art. They are big fans of copying really popular pop-culture images, like they do a great one of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas which is amazing but they also do street art pictures. You know the picture of the guy with the bandana covering his face throwing flowers ? It’s by Banksy, one of the most famous street artists in the world. Here it is:

You’ve seen this picture right ? On t-shirts, posters, stickers ? It’s by renowned street artist Banksy. Well, here in Vietnam, they do appreciate fine pop art from around the world and have some other similar styles of art but that picture is very popular and very frequently painted and I imagine it is a great seller, especially among British folk. They have a series of mostly black and white pieces of children in urban apocalyptic landscapes, often reaching for a lost balloon blowing away.

I found the picture I wanted. I greeted the artist and he called for the eldest girl at the store who could talk to me, and I showed her what I wanted done. Two small words in English down in the bottom corner, and I wanted a single word, printed large in Japanese kana (partly hiragana and partly kanji) at the top.

It took some explanation, some writing on paper, and some photos being passed from phone to phone, and when I went back the next day it still wasn’t quite right. One of the characters was missing a very importantly little serif (for lack of a better word) on a character, and I had to ask them to correct it for me, which took a couple of hours, but they did it, and I was very satisfied.

Now, you may see it. It’s quite large at around 1000x600mm, and I still have it on the wooden frame, but I will roll it up before transporting it.

Well, you know what it says, right ? In the bottom left corner is Suki’s first and middle name “Suki Mae”. At the top of the painting, above the love heart shaped balloon is the word “Suki”, in Nihongo. This word means “like”, rather than love, but when a boy says it to a girl (or vice versa) “Suki desu”, it means “I love you. Please be my girl/boyfriend”. And that’s what this picture says to me. It’s two kids in some crazy apocalyptic world, the boy holding a teddy bear, with his arm on the younger girl’s shoulder as the balloon floats away saying “daijobou. suki desu”. It means “It’s ok. I love you”.

So this is Suki’s painting. Daijoubu Suki. I’m thinking about you baby.

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