For the First Time... Paris! Hellion's Third Ema Show This Year

By Kaylee Pratt
Posted in Overcup Press, on July 07, 2016

If you love Japanese culture, creative rebirth of tradition, or art in general, you’d be fascinated by Matt Wagner’s annual Ema show. The Portland-based curator of Hellion Gallery just wrapped up the third and final venue of this year’s display.

Opening day of Portland’s 2016 Ema show

But first things first: what are Ema? According to Japanese tradition, one of the first emperors would donate a black horse to a Shinto shrine to bring rain, or a white horse to end it. As time carried on, the tradition morphed into more financially manageable means, becoming what are now known as Ema. The word itself means “picture of a horse,” but the small wooden plaques now feature anything from foxes to text to manga-style cartoons. These prayer plaques are hung at a shrine for protection, good fortune, or luck on an exam.

Matt Wagner first used Ema plaques as an inspiration in his 2015 show, when he enlisted over forty artists to use the wooden panels as canvases. Last year’s show featured in both Portland and Tokyo, and this year, both the locations have already seen the span of Ema lining the wall.

Ren Sakurai - 2016 Tokyo Ema Show

However, to follow in the footsteps of his Tall Trees art book series, he added a third venue in Paris, which debuted on Tuesday, June 21st. (The Tall Trees of Paris is the newest book born into the Tall Trees family of books , as it was unveiled in May of this year. Check it out here.) He even employed a few artists that were featured in the Tall Trees of Paris book: Nicolas Barrome, Koleo, Koralie, JM Ouvry, and Amandine Urruty. Though I’m sure we all would’ve loved to buy a quick ticket to Paris to witness their art in person, the time and money has long passed.

But don’t worry! Pictures of the Paris debut will soon be posted to his gallery’s site. In the meantime, look through some of the pictures of Tokyo and Portland’s shows, or perhaps you can whip out your paintbrushes and make your own Ema art. (Not artistic? You could always, you know, donate a horse.)

Yohei Takahashi - 2015 Ema show

Featured artists include: AJ Fosik, Maryanna Hoggatt, Eric Wert, Nosego, Ben Venom, Casey Weldon, Souther Salazar, Olivia Knapp, Jon MacNair, Mary Iverson, Robert Bowen, Jesse Hazelip, Karilise Alexander, Andrew Schoultz, Josh Keyes, Stephanie Buer, KozynDan, Zach Johnsen, Ren Sakurai, Yoskay Yamamoto, Koralie, Jean Jullien, Amandine Urruty, Nicolas Barrome, Alexone, Koleo, JM Ouvry, Haroshi, Tamaki Mori, Nino, MHAK, Renan Santos, Heather Mclean, Kojiro Ankan Takukawa, Ewa Prończuk-Kuziak, Peca, Joram Roukes, Dilka Bear, SAL Jeff P and Yu Maeda.