Japanese printmaking is likely to be one of the most recognized East Asian mediums, and stands as a symbol for most as a representation of Japanese artwork as a whole, but during the course of a printmaking class I took my senior year, I got largely introduced and more familiarized to the masterful work of the Japanese artists pioneering and trailblazing in the field and creating an impact in the art world. I feel lucky to have gotten the chance to visit Mizzou North and witness some of these works in person.
I spent a great deal of my formative years in south Japan living there as a child and again in later life receiving the majority of my high school career. Living somewhere so culturally rich does something for the soul and looking at these prints and seeing the surroundings remind me of a home that my heart lays claim to.
Katsushika Hokusai – Yoshida at Tokaido (36 views of Mt. Fuji)
Atsuki Segawa (animator)
Having little more than a rudimentary understanding of printmaking, I understand how tedious the process of producing a print can be, but tedious as it is you have to remain concentrated on the task at hand to ensure blocks are carved precisely and prints are registered cleanly. Seeing the color gradations in the sky, water and even and the landscapes shows just how skilled these printers were to achieve such a feat. Not to mention the extensive detail in the foliage and general construction of the landscape. Judging from the colors alone, there must be at least ten or more blocks on one final production to achieve the desired look. Prior to the exhibit, I was not aware that these prints were the collaborative efforts of several individuals, but knowing the complex nature of the art form, it would be a much slower process for the work of one. The meticulous nature can be seen in the product, showing something that resembles a photograph rather than something produced by several hands.
Besides my admiration for the effort exerted into these works, aesthetically these pieces are just wildly good, so much so that others drew inspiration half a world away. From the subject matter, to physical conceptualization they do not cease to inspire. Originally depicting Japanese leisurely life, this leisure ranged in the realm of prostitution and brothels, juxtaposed to the religious influenced works being produced and artistically hailed in the western world during this time frame. Ukiyo – e was a game changer, challenging composition, symmetry and aesthetic appeal.
Elaborating more on my printmaking experience, I had a basic introduction to subtractive monotype (left) ; wood carving prints, color prints (right), and a few more that were more or less painstakingly produced. Printmaking requires a lot of attention to detail and patience, but it also helps to have the right tools in your arsenal. Most schools art programs get the short end of the stick when it comes to budget and mine was no different, but we did the best with what we had and produced some real kick ass work by the way. This meant having to recycle a lot of things and trying to improvise for the tools we didn’t have and it just makes you appreciate your work even more when it comes out how you want it too.
Enjoy my work and perhaps give it a try if you get the opportunity.