Log In

Reset Password

Chips with that?

A brightly-coloured, ghost-fire-breathing fowl from Japanese mythology has materialised on a Charcoal Chicken wall.

But instead of rustling in a bamboo grove only to vanish when looked at, Gisborne artist Maiko Lewis-Whaanga's Fire Rooster is in your face. Based on 19th century artist Takehara Shunsensai's ink and colour, woodblock-print of the supernatural bird known as the Basan, Lewis-Whaanga's illustration is painted mostly in bold, primary colours — red, blue and yellow.

Lewis-Whaanga has stayed true to the description of the Basan's red body, blue claws and saddle of green feathers but has turned up the volume.

“For the past three or four years I've been wanting to paint this rooster,” she says.

“I got inspired by Mexican graffiti art and pinata. This is different from my old style with red, blue and gold. With this work, I've branched out into playing with colour.”

She “played around” with sharp, angular shapes and a softer, curvilinear, repeat pattern she has used before — seigaiha, the overlapping concentric circles traditionally used to represent the ocean.

“The whole thing is a contrast of colour and shape,” says Lewis-Whaanga.

The Basan (or Basabasa or Inuhoo) is said to live in the bamboo groves among the mountains of Japan's Iyo Province.

It spits brilliant-hued but ghost-fire which does not burn and could be just the ticket for cooking ghost chips.

The Fire Rooster also materialises in human villages late at night.

Takehara Shunsensai's Basan was one of several depictions that made up Ehon Hyaku Monogatari (Picture Book of a Hundred Stories), a supernatural bestiary of ghosts, monsters, and spirits, published in about 1841.

Lewis-Whaanga has named her Basan Petrofski, after the pet rooster she had in her late 20s. In a reference to her dual heritage, the giant red sun behind the ghost-fire gobbing bird is a salute to Tairawhiti, “the coast upon which the sun shines across the water”, and the Japanese motif of the rising sun.

The work will be finished with small paper cranes in transit across the face of the sun.

“I've used them in the past in reference to my Japanese heritage,” says Lewis-Whaanga.

“They symbolise peace and good luck.”

GHOST-FIRE: A supernatural, cold-fire breathing, rooster-like creature known in Japanese mythology as the Basan is depicted in a bright coloured mural created by Gisborne artist Maiko Lewis-Whaanga. Picture supplied