Drifting in Purgatory

Behind the canvas with Patrick Ishihara

Text by James Charisma || Images courtesy of the artist

“I’ve worked everywhere. All the fast-food joints, retirement homes, cafés, at the movie theatres, on a boat,” Patrick Ishihara says. “Mainly food service. And I don’t really like it, but I’ve developed skills in that industry—and the frustration with that type of work helps me make art.”

A Chinatown regular, Ishihara is a Honolulu-born artist who presented an exhibition at the new Hound and Quail on Maunakea Street in November 2014. Titled Drifting In Purgatory, the show featured 23 pieces and explored the themes of isolation and anxiety through a mix of older and newer illustrations, paintings, and collages.

For Ishihara, who works as a cook at Downbeat Diner, creating art is both a therapy to cope with the nothingness of workdays and a solution to it. “When you work all day, you’re tired and wiped out,” he says. “But then you use that, get it out all out on the paper.”

Ishihara was always interested in art. As a kid, he remembers watching Dragonball Z on Sunday afternoons with his dad, an electrical engineer who drew a lot. Ishihara would draw too, collecting character-design sketchbooks and storyboard cells from comic book shops and Toys ’n’ Joys with his sister, imitating the cartoon characters he saw on screen.

As he got older, Ishihara was exposed to different subcultures. He hung out with friends at skate parks and in the local punk scene, became involved with the symphonic band at Roosevelt, and got into drugs. “You’re definitely shaped by the worlds you’re in,” he says. “I don’t do drugs anymore, but those experiences influence you, especially as an artist.”

Drifting In Purgatory at Hound and Quail reflected those eclectic influences, with each piece focused on completely different themes and elements, ranging from portraits to landscapes to breakfast items. In a watercolor titled “Food Porn,” an obese cherubic figure lies on a fainting couch eating a slice of pepperoni pizza. “Mind Control Octopus,” a pen-and-ink illustration, features a distorted black-and-white keyboard with ball-studded tendrils over a colored-line-pattern background. He uses a mix of mediums for different art pieces, including pen, crayon, pastel, watercolor—sometimes even cum or blood.

“It usually takes me about an hour to make pieces, and a lot of my inspiration comes from what I interact with that day, whether it was good or if I got pissed off,” says Ishihara. “I’m starting to see emotions as tools that I can use to strengthen my art. It’s a process, but I’m learning.” Ishihara’s ultimate goal is to work in graphic design as part of a studio or on his own, but collaboratively: “I like working with others. Bouncing ideas off each other, building work, experimenting with what you have, and refining. Creating something out of nothing; that’s what I’m interested in.”

Follow Ishihara @dopaminemachine.