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Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside is now home to a unique piece of art: a giant gyotaku print of a locally caught sea bass created by artist Dwight Hwang.
Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside is now home to a unique piece of art: a giant gyotaku print of a locally caught sea bass created by artist Dwight Hwang. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Oceanside sushi restaurant installs giant fish print mural

OCEANSIDE — Staff at one downtown sushi and ramen eatery used last year’s pandemic shutdown as an opportunity to give the restaurant’s interior a fresh, new look. Now, the dining room boasts what is likely one of the most unique art pieces in town.

With lamps and other fixtures replaced and white paint replacing the previous red paint on Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub’s walls, one space above the restaurant’s bar top was left like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with something new.

Bran Moon, graphic designer and owner of Black Moon Design, conceptualized the piece that he wanted to fill the blank wall with — a giant fish print. Moon, who provides digital design services to Wrench & Rodent and The Plot restaurants, was first inspired by the prints of fish that he saw when he came to help with the restaurant’s remodeling process.

“That was the first time I had ever seen that type of print,” Moon said.

Bran Moon, graphic designer and owner of Black Moon Design, came up with the idea to take a gyotaku fish print created by artist Dwight Hwang, enlarge it and paste it to one of the walls in Oceanside’s Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub.
Bran Moon, owner of Black Moon Design, came up with the idea to take a gyotaku fish print created by artist Dwight Hwang, enlarge it and paste it to one of the walls in Oceanside’s Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Over the next year, the idea sat dormant in Moon’s mind. He knew he wanted to fill the space with a giant texture of something blown up several times its actual size.

Eventually, Moon came across videos of an artist practicing gyotaku, a 19th-century traditional Japanese art form that involves painting the side of a fish with ink and carefully pressing it against rice paper to create an image. Fishermen originally practiced gyotaku as a way to record their catches.

He soon found out that the artist in the videos, Dwight Hwang, also created prints for Chef Willy Eick. Moon then reached out to Hwang, who liked his idea and decided to help.

The two discussed what kind of materials they should use and how they should apply it.

As a teenager growing up in Oceanside, Moon was familiar with the process of using rice paper to print graphics on surfboards. He finally settled on wheatpasting the image on rice paper to the wall.

Wheatpaste is a liquid adhesive made from flour and water. It is used for papier-mâché, bookbinding or sticking posters to walls, a practice often used by graffiti artists.

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside is now home to a unique piece of art: a giant gyotaku print of a locally caught sea bass created by artist Dwight Hwang.
Photo by Samantha Nelson

Moon bought Hwang’s digital print of a striped bass caught nearby in San Diego, enlarged the image and then printed it on seven panels of giant rice paper strips.

Moon and Hwang finally met at the restaurant a few weeks ago early one morning to paste the giant rice paper panels to the wall. The two spent hours together standing on the bar top and applying the images to the wall, finishing right when the restaurant opened for business around 4 p.m. that afternoon.

“As far as I know, no one has ever wheatpasted rice paper to a wall before as a mural,” Moon said.

After they were done, a unique piece of art transformed the entire room by becoming its focal point.

“This has always been an underutilized space,” said Reira Moon, general manager of Wrench & Rodent and wife of Bran Moon.

With more business now, even prior to COVID-19, she wants to see the space used as a place for guests waiting for a seat in the restaurant to grab a drink and sit at the bar by the mural as they wait. She also hopes to turn the area into a functioning cocktail bar.

According to co-founder and Executive Chef Davin Waite, the mural paired with the room’s other art pieces like the red, neon light that reads “Fresh Fish” next to the mural turns the entire room into one giant work of art.

“This is a piece of art, and that is a piece of art, but if you stand by the front door at night, it’s all a piece of art,” Waite said.

According to the Moons, “sexy” is currently the top word used by guests to describe the room’s new look.

Besides enhancing the restaurant’s appearance, the giant fish print also represents some of the restaurant’s core values, like respecting food and the life that was taken to make it, as well as the importance of using locally sourced options and working together.

Now that the fish print mural in Wrench and Rodent is completed, Hwang is now interested in doing the same thing somewhere on the side of a building in the city.

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