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The Unfinished Print

Mar 14, 2023

The history of mokuhanga in Canada is small, yet strong. There are Canadian mokuhanga printmakers who have helped grow the art form in Canada and throughout the world, such as Walter J. Phillips (1884-1963), David Bull, Elizabeth Forrest, Barbara Wybou, to name but a few. But what if there was a tradition of printmaking you could never think have a connection with Japanese mokuhanga, thriving and growing in the Canadian Arctic? 

Norman Vorano is the Associate Professor of Art History and Head of the Department of Art History and Conservation at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. In 2011 Norman published a book, with essays by Asato Ikeda, and Ming Tiampo, Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration

This book opened me to the world of how various print traditions, so far away from each other, could influence one another. In this case, the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic in what is now known as Kinngait, have built one of the most thriving and economically sustainable print traditions in the world. But what I didn't know is that mokuhanga and the Japanese print tradition had a huge part to play in their early success. 

I speak with Professor Norman Vorano about Inuit history and culture, how the Inuit print tradition began, how an artist from Toronto made his way to the Arctic, then to Japan, then back to the arctic, changing everything. Norman also speaks on how the work of sōsaku hanga printmaker U'nichi Hiratsuka influenced the early Inuit printmakers, and we discuss tools, pigments, and the globalization of art. 

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Notes: may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.

Artists works follow after the note. Pieces are mokuhanga unless otherwise noted.

Norman Vorano PhD - is Associate Professor of Art History and Head of the Department of Art History and Conservation at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. For more information about Inuit printmaking and their association with mokuhanga you can get Norman's book, Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration (2011). For additonal information about Inuit printmaking and mokuhanga, Norman lectured on the subject for The Japan Foundation Toronto in 2022. The online lecture can be found, here

A few topics that Norman and I really didn't have a chance to explore, but alluded too, was process. As wood is scarce in the Arctic, stone carving (soapstone), and linocuts are and were used. Also there is a chain within Inuit printmaking much like the hanmoto system of mokuhanga in Japan, where the Print Studio chooses images drawn by others in the community and those images are carved and printed by carvers and printers associated with the Print Studio in the Kenojuak Cultural Center in Kinngait, and then sold to the public. 

Queens University at Kingston - is a public research university located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. What began as a school for the Church of Scotland in 1841 has developed into a multi faculty university. More info can be found on their website, here

Canadian Museum of History - one of Canada’s oldest museums the CMH focuses on Canadian and world history, ethnology, and archeology. The museum is located in Gatineau, Québec, Canada. More info can be found on their website, here

The Eastern Arctic of Canada - is a portion of the Arctic archipelago, a chain of islands (2,400 km or 1,500 mi) and parts of Québec and Labrador, located throughout the northern portion of the country of Canada. The Eastern portion discsussed in the episode is comprised of Baffin Island (Qikiqtaaluk - ᕿᑭᖅᑖᓗᒃ),  and Kinngait (Cape Dorset). 

Kinngait (ᑭᙵᐃᑦ) - is located on Dorset Island at the southern part of Baffin Island in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. It was called  Cape Dorset until 2020, when it was renamed “high mountain” in the Inuktitut language. 

Distant Early Warning Line (DEW)- was a radar system located in the Arctic regions in Canada, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. Its purpose was to help detect any aggression, militarily, from the then Soviet Union. This system was overseen by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force. It ceased activity in 1993. 

The Canadian Guild of Crafts - also known as La Guilde, was established in 1906 in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. It has focused its work on preserving First Nations crafts and arts. It began working with James Houston (1921-2005) in 1948, having the first Inuit exhibition in 1949 showcasing Inuit carving and other crafts. It exists and works today. More information can be found, here.

James Archibald Houston - was a Canadian artist who worked and lived in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) until 1962. He worked with La Guilde and the Hudson’s Bay Company, bringing Inuit arts and crafts to an international community starting in 1948 through to the Cape Dorset co-operative of the 1950’s. His work in helping to make Inuit art more commerical for the Inuit people has been documented in Norman Vorano’s book, Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration (2011), as well as several articles from La Guilde, which can be found, here.

Drum Dancer (1955) - chalk on paper

West Baffin Eskimo Co-Operative - is the co-operative on Kinngait (Cape Dorset) established in 1959 and created by the Department of Natural Resources and Northern Development represented by Don Snowden and Alexander Sprudz, with James Houston. It focuses on drawings, prints, and carvings. More info can be found on their website, here

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - in 2019 it was replaced by the Department of Indigenous Services Canada. The ISC is a government department whose responsibility is to colaborate and have an open dialogue with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. 

Terry Ryan (1933-2017) - was an artist and the arts director of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-Op in 1960 and General Manager in 1962. His work with the Cape Dorset Print Studio, bringing artists from all over Canada, helped to push the studio’s work throughout the world. There is a fine Globe and Mail article about Terry Ryan's life and accomplishments, which can be found here

Kenojuak Cultural Center - is located in Kinngait, and was opened in 2018 with a space of 10,440 sq ft. The KCC is a community center and space for sharing. It has a large printmaking studio, meeting spaces and exhibition spaces for work as well as a permanent gallery. It is associated with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-Operative. 

Early Inuit Art - for more information regarding early Inuit art on record, from first European contact, La Guilde discusse this very topic in their article Going North: A Beautiful Endeavor, here.

Grand-Mère, Québec - is a city in the province of Québec in Canada. Located in the region of Maricie, with a population of around 14,000. It was founded in 1898 and is made famous for the rock formation which shares its name. Grand Mère means ‘grandmother.’ It is known for hunting and fishing tourism. 

The Group of Seven - were a group of landscape painters from Canada. The artists were, Franklin Carmichael (1890–1945), Lawren Harris (1885–1970), A.Y. Jackson  1882–1974), Frank Johnston (1888–1949), Arthur Lismer  (1885–1969), J.E.H MacDonald (1873–1932), and Frederick Varley (1881–1969). Later, A.J. Casson (1898–1992) was invited to join in 1926, Edwin Holdgate (1892–1977) became a member in 1930, and LeMoine FitzGerald (1890–1956) joined in 1932. While Tom Thomspon (1877–1917), and Emily Carr (1871–1945) were not "official" members it is generally accepted that they were a part of the group because of their individual relationships with the other member of the group. More info can be found, here. A fine article on the CBC by Cree writer Matteo Cimellaro, discusses the role The Group of Seven played in Canadian nationalism and the exclusion of First Nation's voices in their work. This can be found, here
Tom Thompson - The Jack Pine (1916-1917)
Moosonee, Ontario - is a town located in Northern Ontario, Canada. It was first settled in 1903, and is located on the Moose River. It’s history was of trapping, and is a gateway to the Arctic. English and Cree is spoken.
Moose Factory, Ontario - is a town first settled in 1673, and was the first English speaking town in Ontario. Much like Moosonee, Moose Factory has a history of fur trading, in this case by the Hudsons Bay Company. Like Moosonee there is a tourist industry based on hunting and fishing. The population is predominantly Cree. 
Cree (ᓀᐦᐃᓇᐤ) - are a Canadian First Nation's people who have lived on the land for centuries. Their people are divided into eight groups through region and dialect of language:
James Bay Cree
Moose Cree
Swampy Cree
Woods Cree
Plains Cree
Naskapi and Montagnais (Innu)
For more information regarding history, tradition of the Cree people of today, Heritage Centre: Cree Nations, and the Cree Nation Government website can get you started. 
John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuire, 1875-1940) - was the 15th Governor General of Canada serving from 1935-1940 (his death). He was born in Scotland, but committed himself to Canada when taking to his position as Governor General. He was also a writer of almost 30 novels. 
sōsaku-hanga - or creative prints, is a style of printmaking which is predominantly, although not exclusively, prints made by one person. It started in the early twentieth century in Japan, in the same period as the shin-hanga movement. The artist designs, carves, and prints their own works. The designs, especially in the early days, may seem rudimentary but the creation of self-made prints was a breakthrough for printmakers moving away from where only a select group of carvers, printers and publishers created woodblock prints. 
Un'ichi Hiratsuka (平塚 運一) - (1895-1977) - was one of the important players of the sōsaku hanga movement in mokuhanga. Hiratsuka was a proponent of self carved and self printed mokuhanga, and taught one of the most famous sōsaku hanga printmakers in Shikō Munakata (1903-1975). He founded the Yoyogi Group of artists and also taught mokuhanga at the Tōkyō School of Fine Arts. Hiratsuka moved to Washington D.C in 1962 where he lived for over thirty years. His mokuhanga was multi colour and monochrome touching on various subjects and is highly collected today. 
Mara Cape, Izu (1929)
Munakata Shikō (志功棟方) - (1903-1975) arguably one of the most famous modern printmakers, Shikō is famous for his prints of women, animals, the supernatural and Buddhist deities. He made his prints with an esoteric fervour where his philosophies about mokuhanga were just as interesting as his print work. 
Castle ca 1960's
Venice Bienale  - is a contemporary art exhibition that takes place in Venice, Italy and which explores various genres of art, architecture, dance, cinema and theatre. It began in 1895. More info, here.
Sao Paolo Biennal - is held in Sao Paolo, Brazil and is the second oldest art bienale in the world. The Sao Paulo Biennal began in 1951. It’s focus is on international artists and Brazilian artists. More info can be found, here
German Expressionism - was produced from the early twentieth century to the 1930's and focused on emotional expression rather than realistic expression. German Expressionists explored their works with colour and shape searching for a “primitive aesthetic” through experimentation. More info can be found,  here, on 

Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) : Poster for the First Exhibition of The Phalanx, lithograph 1901. 

Yanagi Sōetsu (1889-1961) - was an art critic, and art philosopher in Japan, who began writing and lecturing in the 1920’s. In 1925 he coined the term mingei (rural crafts), which he believed represented the “functional beauty” and traditional soul of Japan. While on paper an anti-fascist, Yanagi’s early views on the relationship of art and people, focusing on the group and not the individual, going back to a Japanese aesthetic; veering away from Western modernity, was used by Japanese fascists leading up to and during the Pacific War (1941-1945). For more information about Yanagi and the mingei movement in Japan during war time check out The Culture of Japanese Fascism, Alan Tasman ed. (2009)

mingei movement - began with the work of Yanagi Sōetsu in the 1920’s. The movement wanted to return to a Japanese aesthetic which honoured the past and preserved the idea of the “everyday craftsman,” someone who went away from industrialization and modernity, and fine art by professional artists. It was heavily influenced by the European Arts and Crafts Movement (1880-1920) as conceived by Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), John Ruskin (1819-1900), and William Morris (1834-1896). 
Oliver Statler (1915-2002) -  was an American author and scholar and collector of mokuhanga. He had been a soldier in World War 2, having been stationed in Japan. After his time in the war Statler moved back to Japan where he wrote about Japanese prints. His interests were of many facets of Japanese culture such as accommodation, and the 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Shikoku. Oliver Statler, in my opinion, wrote one of the most important books on the sōsaku-hanga movement, “Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn.”
Stuben Glass Works - is a manufacturer of glass works, founded in 1903 in New York City. It is known for its high quality glass production working with talented glass designers. 
Ainu - are a First Nations peoples with a history to Japan going back centuries. They traditionally live in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido as well as the northern prefectures of Honshū.  There are approximately 24,000 Ainu in Japan. Made famous for the face, hand and wrist tattooing of Ainu women, as well as animist practices, the Ainu are a distinct culture from the Japanese. There has been some attempts by the Japanese goverment to preserve Ainu heritage and language but the Ainu people are still treated as second class citizens without the same rights and prvileges of most Japanese. More information about the Ainu can be found at the World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People, here
baren - is a Japanese word to describe the flat, round shaped disc which is predominantly used in the creation of Japanese woodblock prints. It is traditionally made of cord of various types, and a bamboo sheath, although baren come in many variations. 
Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984) - was a textile designer who was a Living National Treaure in Japan. He had a part in the mingei movement where he studied Okinawan bingata fabric stencil dying techniques. He also used katazome stencil dying technqiues on paper in the calendars he made, beginning in 1946. 
Happiness - date unknown: it is an ita-e (板絵) work, meaning a work painted on a piece of wood, canvas, metal etc. 
National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) - is a research institute and public museum located on the old Expo ’70 grounds in the city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture. It provides a graduate program for national and international students, doctorate courses, as well as various exhibitions. More information can be found on their website, here
Prince Takamado Gallery -  is a gallery located in the Canadian Embassy in Tōkyō. It has a revolving exhibition schedule. It is named after Prince Takamado (1954-2002), the third son of Prince Mikasa Takahito (1916-2016). More info can be found, here.
Carlton University - is a public resesarch university located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1942 in order to provide a serivce for returning World War II veterans. More information about the university can be found, here.  
Kenojuak Ashavak (1927-2013) - was an Inuit graphic designer and artist born in Ikirisaq, Baffin Island. She moved to Kinngait (Cape Dorset) in 1966. Kanojuak Ashavek has made some of the most iconic imagery of Inuit art in Canadian history. One of her images, The Enchanted Owl was the subject of a TV Ontario short from TVO Today, and can be found here. The famous National Film Board of Canada documentary (1963) about her and her work can be found, here.  
Luminous Char, stonecut and stencil, 2008. © Dorset Fine Arts
Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration -  was an Inuit print exhibtion at the Prince Takamado Gallery held at the Canadian Embassy in Tōkyō in 2011. It later toured across Canada. 
Osaki washi - is a paper making family located in Kōchi, Japan. His paper has been provided to Inut printmakers for many years. The print by Kenojuak Ashavak, and printed by Qiatsuq Niviaksi,  was the one aluded to in Norman’s interview as hanging on the washi makers wall. 
Norman discusses, near the end of the interview, about how Inuit leaders were stripped of their power. The Canadian government instituted more policing in post war Canada, especially during the Cold War. The RCMP and other government officials used colonial practices such as policing, culturally and criminally, to impose Canadian practices from the South onto the Inuit. 
Pitaloosie Saila - Undersea Illusion,  lithograph 2012
Lukta Qiatsuk (1928-2004)

Owl -  Stonecut print on paper, 1959. Canadian Museum of History Collection, © Dorset Fine Arts.

Kananginak Pootoogook (1935-2010)
Evening Shadow: stone cut and stencil, 2010
© Dorset Fine Arts
Eegyvudluk Pootoogook (1931-1999)
Eegyvudluk Pootoogook w/ Iyola Kingwatsiaq , 1960, photo by Rosemary Gilliat Eaton, Library and Canadian Archives. 
Our First Wooden Home: lithograph, 1979.
Osuitok Ipeelee (1922-2005)
Eskimo Legend: Owl, Fox, and Hare - stencil print, 1959
Canadian Museum of History Collection © Dorset Fine Arts.
 Iyola Kingwatsiak (1933-2000)
Circle of Birds: stencil on paper, 1965
© Popular Wheat Productions

opening and closing musical credit - From Professor Henry D. Smith II, lecture entitled, The Death of Ukiyo-e and the Mid-Meiji Birth of International Mokuhanga, as told at the 4th International Mokuhanga Conference in Nara in November, 2021. 

logo designed and produced by Douglas Batchelor and André Zadorozny 

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If you find any issue with something in the show notes please let me know.

***The opinions expressed by guests in The Unfinished Print podcast are not necessarily those of André Zadorozny and of Popular Wheat Productions.***

 All photos of Inuit artists and works of Inuit artists have been either provided by Norman Vorano, or have been sourced from elsewhere. These are used for educational purposes only. Any issues please reach out.