Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Big in Japan (I hope)

Today, I board a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. I’ll have a lot of luggage with me: a suitcase filled with weather-appropriate clothing, 2 large portfolio bags filled with paintings in lipstick, a selection of A4 prints, flyers, business cards, and 30 metres of Velcro.

From there, my husband and my friend Juan will board another Cathay Pacific flight to Narita Airport in Tokyo. From there, we’ll travel to the Harajuku district, and once we’re there, to the Tokyo International Art Fair, where I will be one of 150 exhibitors this Friday and Saturday.

It’s completely crazy, of course. I had no idea that Juan had even applied on my behalf when we were told that I had been accepted. Me, exhibiting at an international art fair? It’s nuts. I’m certainly not part of the art establishment, just someone who started painting quite accidentally in an unusual medium and stuck at it because it became a compulsion. I’m hoping to attract enough attention for it to not be a complete disaster. The paintings are almost all in red. In a new market, you have to be simple to understand. Red equals lipstick and Africa equals wildlife. That’s what friends on my Facebook page told me when I first shared the work I was planning to take. Nguni cattle won’t cut it, they said.

So I created the Endangered Series, adding a red rhino (apologies for the size of the images – getting the sizes right while linking from my own website is a task I feel unequal to right now).

red lipstick rhino

A red elephant
red lipstick elephant

A red cheetah
red lipstick cheetah

And a red Cape mountain zebra.

red lipstick zebra

There is also my tribute to the legendary Japanese red cow, Akabeko, titled “Akabeko in Africa”.

red lipstick cow

I have no idea whether the Japanese will like my work, or whether I’ll sell a single piece. In a good sign, I was included in the press release. But this is hugely risky, a venture costing the equivalent of more than 3 months’ salary, and I’m tempering my expectations.

So when I unravel those 30 metres of Velcro – to attach the paintings to the exhibition booth, and I need 15 metres of hooks and 15 metres of loops – it will be in the hope that everything holds up, and nothing falls down.

Whatever happens, at least it will have been interesting.

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