LIVING with the pandemic in Tokyo, Japan maybe daunting. But Kapampangan visual artist Dennis Villanueva Sun continues to share a dose of positive vibes, and spread cheer with his creative genius in an upcoming show, “HAPPINESS Art Exhibition.”

The new exhibit will be taking place from February 26 to March 25, 2021 at Shinjuku’s Gallery O-Guard Miruku and it is supported by the Shinjuku Bunka Center. This is a venue at the heart of one of Tokyo’s commercial hubs, a stone’s throw away from the world’s busiest train station.

The Happiness Art Exhibit will feature 15 paintings handpicked by the artist, resonating life during the pandemic, and partly a discourse on how artists remain relevant in these challenging times in our society, while the outdoor window display mode reflects how art shows adapt safe and healthy ways to reach out to their audience. I am quite amazed at this kind of support and value placement that is given to artists in Japan.

The artworks in the Happiness exhibit were painted in various periods of Dennis’s life beginning in the 1990s, transcending time, zeitgeist, and even geographical boundaries. But the artist draws parallelisms between his early struggles as an expat in Japan and the current struggles with the pandemic.

Dennis shares his thoughts on one of my favorite artworks in the exhibit, a painting that depicts flowering cacti thriving under the starry night skies, intermingling with brightly-colored birds and fishes, “Looking at the painting now without any title written at the back, I am trying to remember the feelings I had when I was painting it. Memories about living and surviving come to mind. Life in a foreign land could be a struggle especially if you don’t know the culture and language... Just as a cactus can survive in a desert without water, we all have to be a cactus in many ways in order to survive and succeed in life.”

Reminiscences aside, Dennis envisions that the upcoming Happiness exhibit will communicate playful and positive pandemic reminders to exhibit-goers about protecting themselves from the CoVid19 virus while appreciating art at the same time, a move that is a welcome respite from the emotional and mental challenges that this pandemic has also brought. A fitting example is encapsulated in the statement “Wear your mask. Wear your smile.”

Dennis originally hails from the province of Pampanga in the Philippines and has been a Tokyo local for several decades. Dennis’s works of art have graced numerous front pages of the Jeepney Press publication, a staple among members of the Filipino community in Japan, which he founded and publishes, and is highly respected as a leader in the community as well. Moreover, he has established a name for himself as a much-admired artist with an international following for his quirky, colorful, fun, and whimsical paintings and illustrations that appeal to the inner child in all of us, often choosing more avant-garde and people-friendly exhibit venues that reach out to a more diverse art audience.

Following a two-year hiatus from the Tokyo art scene, Dennis made a laudable come back and worked with a leading café, Tully’s Coffee, for the “Love, Light, and Laughter” art exhibition in Shinjuku which ran from July to October 2020, in an effort to spread love, light, and laughter to people, and help them cope during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his home province, Dennis has been recognized as one of SM Pampanga’s Global Pinoy awardees and a Most Outstanding Kapampangan awardee in the field of Mass Media. As he continues to make waves abroad, Dennis also brings pride to our country, a nation recognized for its Covid-19 frontliners at the health front, and now at the art front as well.