The La Carnita Print Program goes all the way back to our inception in the pop-up days when guests would purchase an art print and get a ‘free’ taco in exchange. Today we continue the tradition by giving out prints bi-monthly from all of our locations to guests at the end of their meal.  

Eks Rei is a Toronto based artist who we were lucky enough to feature with November’s Dia de Los Muertos print. Eks Rei practices traditional Sumi calligraphy, expressing his relationship with mortality and the nuances between light and dark. We connected with him on his process, his unconventional medium of choice and anonymity in the art world.

I’m not limited to expressing through one single identity, the approach allows me to enjoy a degree of detachment from the work that is being created.

You seem to keep your public profile very minimalistic, focusing predominantly on the art rather than yourself, I imagine that this was a conscious decision so why is anonymity important to you as an artist?

I’m not sure it was a conscious choice in the beginning, but I appreciate the anonymity surrounding my work now. There are still some people in my community who haven’t yet made the connection that it’s me creating art through this alias, and since I’m not limited to expressing through one single identity, the approach allows me to enjoy a degree of detachment from the work that is being created.

How did you come to learn Sumi calligraphy and why do you prefer it over other mediums? / Are there others that you enjoy or have explored in the past?

I wouldn't say that I prefer working with Sumi and calligraphy over other mediums, however, it's been crucial in allowing me to develop my current ideas. Previously I worked on charcoal based pieces with extreme detail, bordering on a photorealism aesthetic, but the loose and unpredictable nature of calligraphy has allowed me to embrace spontaneity in the moment and move away from trying to achieve perfection. Now I'm transitioning to designing and creating objects, but they are all being informed by the brush stroke aesthetic I've developed over the past 3 years.

Are there 3 main things (Be it ritual, materials etc.) that you stick to when you’re about to start a new project that you could identify? If not, can you speak a bit more about your process?  

Three constants in my current work:

I.  I have a tendency to begin paintings only after the sun sets.

II. I work with a custom ink that I'm developing with ground charcoal, water and ash.

III. I maintain and rotate through a collection of 21 brushes that I've collected over 5 years. This prolongs the flexibility of each one, and encourages a slow maturing of the hair and sable over use.


If you had to describe what you’ve learned thus far in your career in one or two sentences what would it be?  

It's important to acknowledge that every individual is dealing with their own adversities. Simple acts of compassion and kindness can go a long way in uplifting one's despair. 

Follow Eks Rei on Instagram