It's clear that Hula, and his work, has a relationship with water. It makes sense for someone that grew up on Hawaii surrounded by it. Is that all though? His work seems to rely on water as much as for aesthetic effect as a metaphorical tool.
With so much of his work appearing partly submerged, we have the impression that his subjects are either valiantly staying afloat, or are on their way to drowning. This presence gives them a sense of truer physicality. The weight of his characters isn't just a physical one, but an allegorical one.
Water itself has many interpretations. It can be the bringer of death, with tidal waves and tsunamis washing over land and destroying everything it comes across. Conversely, it can also be seen as the giver of life - something that is capable of rejuvenation, refreshment and renewal. Whichever one it is, depending on the particular piece, you can't look past the fact that it is a transformative force.
His art usually revolves around a female figure, introspective and with dark fleshy hues. They are sometimes innocent and helpless, stranded by their isolation from anything else. They're also sensual and alluring, like sirens beckoning sailors off of the safety of their ships. The women of his art seem comfortable, as if there is no one watching them. She acts as if the only gaze is her own and it's usually directed at an unknown focal point as if she knows something we don't.
Life in Hawaii, as it does for so many of the island's inhabitants, began out in the sea on a surf-board. He spent most of his time bobbing around, which is in itself a reflective place - somewhere that, like his characters, he can be alone to think. Although, after moving to New York to pursue his art career, the surfing took a back-seat - his board did not.
Usually an artist's most advantageous tool is their mind. Brushes and paints, although varying in quality, are something of a great equalizer. The advantage comes from how your body reacts to your mind's command. For Sean Yoro, or Hula, he has one more tool to use. His surf-board.
Usually limited by where we can physically reach - walls and similar surfaces - the canvas of the street, are limited. They have boundaries. Water, unsurprisingly, is usually one such limitation. That is unless you have a means of flotation. It's here that Hula is able to access spots that others aren't and as a result, he has developed a style which integrates with and is influenced by his surroundings.
Using his board as a platform, he returns to the place of opportunity and serenity, of possible chaos and infinite creation. It seems that painting for Hula is a meditative practice and as such, his images should be reflected on accordingly. They require more than a glance, despite their seeming simplicity, to be truly absorbed.
Hula's most iconic work was painted on a surface that was particularly unusual, even for him. A few years ago, concerned by the crisis of global warming and rising sea-levels, Hula painted his figurative forms onto icebergs. In one, a woman's face, barely visible, breaches the surface as she seems to gasp for air. The usual serenity of his work had all but dissipated, making way for something more distressing and a lot more affecting.
Hawaii being so abundant in nature, both flora and fauna, provided Hula with a certain way of viewing the world. For him, it's of the utmost importance we do what we can to preserve what we have. That's why his artwork operates on two levels. One, as art, with all of its associated intricacies. And on another, as a tool of raising awareness. At least if we are looking at something, we might stop ignoring the problems that are attached to it. By catching our eye, he stops us turning a blind one.
More like this:
Please, check your email.