Jul 31, 2021
The art of the modern printmaker is universal. All over the world mokuhanga has reached people from all aspects of life. It touches a chord that is unique and powerful. On this episode of The Unfinished Print I speak to an artist who’s work does just that. Benoit Varaillon, also known as Beno Uki Ga, is a French mokuhanga printmaker who mixes the traditional and the modern; pieces that are full of colour, exciting, and interesting. When setting up this interview, Beno’s one request was to have a translator. You’re going to hear three voices on this episode, of Beno, myself, and his cousin Lucie Galinon who kindly agreed to help translate. I hope you enjoy this newest episode of The Unfinished Print.
Notes: notes may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.
Edo Period prints - woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1603-1867) were predominantly of kabuki actors (Sharaku), and courtesans (Harunobu) beginning in the middle of the 18th century. The traditional system of production came into play when making ukiyo-e of this period, designer, carver, printer, and publisher. Famous designers of the day were Hiroshige (1797-1858), Hokusai (1760-1849).
Meiji Period prints - 1868-1912 This period of woodblock prints were rich in colour and in experimentation. Still using the traditional production system, the printing become more intense via larger formats, triptychs and subject matter from war to murder. Famous artists of the time were Kunichika (1835-1900), and Yoshitoshi (1839-1892).
Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920) was a self taught designer of woodblock prints. His life began designing rickshaw’s and under the auspices of the Ogata family his career began to flourish. His style is said to favour ukiyo-e, with subjects raging from landscape, war (past and present), Japanese history, and nature. A great website of his work and history can be found here.
Akira Kurosaki (1934-2019) - Japanese printmaker and scholar who developed the Disk Baren. His printmaking career and academic career go hand in hand as he always seemed to be creating his abstract and surreal works while working as a professor. Seeing his work in person is a must, as the vibrant and powerful colours of his pieces can only do justice in person. Some of his works can be found here, at the Azuma Gallery
David Bull - is a Canadian mokuhanga printmaker who has spent most of his life in Tōkyō. He is the owner of Mokuhankan of Asakusa in Tōkyō where he and his staff create woodblock prints. He teaches and educates people from all over the world via his Twitch live streams and YouTube videos.
aizuri-e - a late Edo Period (1603-1867) type of printmaking where the woodblock print is predominantly in blue, or shades of the color blue. The blue colour was usually a Prussian Blue imported into Japan around 1790. artelino have a great description of Prussian Blue and aizuri-e, here.
shōmenzuri - “front printing,” rubbing the print in reverse so as to get a polished look on the print, usually for patterns.
Bretagne, France - a peninsula in Western France, which contains old architecture, beauty for sea coasts, nature walks, as well as a great art scene. More information can be found, here.
shin-hanga 1915-1940 - a renaissance of the Japanese woodblock started by Shōzaburō Watanabe (1885-1962). He used the traditional methods and line of production from the Edo and Meiji Periods. Mixing western painting and traditional Japanese motifs, for these new prints Watanabe commissioned artists like Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) and Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) kickstarting some of the greatest masterpieces of world art.
Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) - originally a watercolorist and painter Yoshida started designing woodblock prints for Watanabe in 1920. By 1925 he was designing prints for his own studio. The works which came from his studio were meticulous and masterpieces of the medium in their own right. Ukiyoe.org has a good collection of Yoshida works.
gouache - a water based pigment used by many mokuhanga artists.
powder pigments - ganryō are usually kept in paste form with alcohol. According to David Bull’s old site, woodblock.com, artists such as Keizaburo Matsuzaki, with whom David speaks with, here, only needed several types of powdered pigments with which to mix an assorted rainbow of colors.
ōban - the most common size of woodblock print, 15”x10”
nishinouchi - is a bleached Japanese paper that is 100% kozo (mulberry) paper and generally comes from eastern Japan such as Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures. Links can be found here for nishinouchi paper made of Nasu kozo, and nishinouchi from the Japanese Paper Place in Toronto from Ibaraki.
sōsaku hanga - the creative print movement in Japan of the early 20th century. The entire process of design, carving, and printing of the woodblock print was done by the artist. The Ronin Gallery of New York have a great definition and history of sōsaku hanga, here.
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