Being a ghost at my exhibition

Watercolor painting of a morning fisherman walking home
“Morning fisherman walking home”

Once, quite a few years ago, at one of my very first exhibitions it was a requirement that I was there the whole duration of the show acting as the ‘host’. It was not a pleasant experience because at that time I found meeting other people quite a stressful experience. 

Also, the fact that my paintings were falling off the wall at regular intervals didn’t help. This was because I didn’t have the money to buy proper frames and so instead I used some thick card frames and stuck everything together with the strongest tape I could find. But the tape was not strong enough and the paintings just slowly peeled off the wall. The bang they made when they hit the ground was shocking.

Since then I have never ‘hosted’ any of my exhibitions. Normally, I’m in and out of there so fast you’d think I was committing a felony, and I probably leave tyre marks on the road. 

In my latest exhibition, which is at a cafe in a town called Beppu, I didn’t even have any image of myself and I later heard that a group of women were wondering what I looked like. I suppose you could say I was more the ghost rather than the host of my own exhibition.

But things change. I now have a friend, a fellow artist living near me, and we are parallels of one another in some interesting ways. He’s like a 15 year future version of myself.

And this year I have done a small collaborative exhibition with him and some of my paintings were shown at one of his exhibitions. When I talked to him about this present exhibition the first thing he said was ‘When will you be there?’ And I said, only when I put up the paintings and when I take them down. Oh, and I will also go to meet two newspaper reporters there which is a first for me and due to the efforts of the owner and my wife.

My friend was surprised by my comment and laughed. Unlike me, during his exhibitions, my friend spends any free time he has being at his exhibition, talking to people who look interested and giving out business cards. He even holds special little parties. I’ve been to one of these parties and the atmosphere was wonderful.

So, it was time I did the same – well, not the party – not yet. To be honest, I’m not a party person. But maybe one day. This time I made a date when I would be at the cafe all day and told the newspaper reporters.

And it was great to arrive there and find a painting missing because somebody had bought it. According to the cafe owner it was a flute player.

Anyway, I also had lunch there so it was hardly a chore. And I even did some painting there. I hoped that it would add to the entertainment but the truth is that I just love to paint.

And I can see now from this experience the benefits of ‘hosting’ rather than ghosting my own exhibition. 

People were literally telling me what they liked about my work and I could see which pictures got noticed and looked at most. Interestingly a lot of it was the work I’d done that year and they were all linked because they all began with an interest in reflections.

It had rained a lot that year and being stuck in the house because of the rain inspired in me the idea of doing watery reflections. And this led to a small series of paintings of Nagahama festival which is the first festival in the city where I live and famous for beginning in the rainy season and yes it often rains during the event.

So, no more being a paintergeist, it’s time to start turning up and upsetting people with my bad jokes until they find a way to exorcise me.

You can read here about my final day at this exhibition when I went for a walk in the mountains.


This story was originally written in August of 2014. I edited it in 2022.

The painting I added here is my favorite one at the exhibition.