Jan 22, 2023
When looking for inspiration, when looking for someone you can look up to in your craft, I look to Paul Binnie. Paul is an artist who has carved a living from their craft, and has been a large part of the greater mokuhanga community. His work has touched on so many themes, concepts and ideas. His mokuhanga takes the past and brings it firmly into the future.
On this episode of The Unfinished Print, I speak with mokuhanga printmaker Paul Binnie. Paul speaks about his life and career, how he uses pigments, paper, and wood for his work. We discuss the fantasy and reality of an historical past. We look at shin-hanga, and sōsaku hanga, observing kabuki, as well as taking a look at his other work such as oil painting and his drawings.
This interview was recorded during Paul Binnie's solo show at Scholten Japanese Art in June, 2022. There may be some background noise during the interview. I apologize for any inconvenience.
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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.
Paul Binnie - while Paul doesn't have a singular website he does have his Instagram. There is the "Binnie Catalogue," which is produced by a third party which digitally collects his work, past and present. This can be found, here.
Protest March - from the Flowers of a Hundred Years Series (2016)
New Year Card - called nengajo (年賀状) in Japanese, these cards have been traditionally passed from person to person since the Heian Period (794-1185). Mokuhanga practitioners make them as well, creating a new one every year focusing on the zodiac sign of the year as a theme.
Scholten Japanese Art - is a mokuhanga focused art gallery located in midtown Manhattan. It was founded by René Scholten, an avid collector of the Japanese print. More info can be found, here.
intaglio printing - is a printing method, also called etching, using metal plates such as zinc, and copper, creating “recessed” areas which are printed with ink on the surface of these "recesses.” More info, here. The MET has info, here.
Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) - a watercolorist, oil painter, and woodblock printmaker. Is associated with the resurgence of the woodblock print in Japan, and in the West. It was his early relationship with Watanabe Shōzaburō, having his first seven prints printed by the Shōzaburō atelier, that made Hiroshi believe that he could hire his own carvers and printers and produce woodblock prints, which he did in 1925.
Yoshida Tōshi (1911-1995) - eldest son of Hiroshi Yoshida. Having been affected by polio, and the pressure of continuing his fathers legacy, Tōshi Yoshida made prints and paintings which gradually became expressive, avant garde and abstract. Later in life he focused on birds and mammals.
Seki Kenji - is a woodblock printmaker based in Tokyo. He was head printer, and produced prints, for Doi Hangaten as well as making his own pieces.
Late Fall (ca 1990's)
Western Representational realism - is an attempt to represent the subject in art in the most realistic way possible. Interchangeable with naturalism in European art of the 19th Century.
kabuki - is a traditional form of Japanese theatre which started in Kyoto on the banks of the Kamo River in the 17th Century. Today it is a multi million dollar business and is almost exclusively run, professionally, by The Shochiku Company. Kabuki, the word, is separated into three different sounds; ka - meaning to sing, bu - meaning to dance, and ki- meaning skill. There are various families in kabuki which generate actors, passing down tradition throughout the lineage. For more information please read this fine article from Nippon.com. There are many books written on the subject of kabuki, but in my opinion, to begin, one needs to read Leonard Pronko's work Theatre East & West, Kawatake Toshio's Kabuki, and Earl Ernst's The Kabuki Theatre. Online, please visit Kabuki21.com, who's site is unparalleled. On YouTube there is the new(ish) Kabuki In-Depth which is updated regularly on kabuki information and history, and is very well done.
Hiroo/Roppongi - is an upscale area of Tōkyō, Japan. It has a thriving international community, museums, galleries and the like. More info can be found, here.
Nakamura Utaemon VI (1917-2001) - was a kabuki actor who focused primarliy on female roles, or onnagata. He is considered one of the best actors in this kind of role, and was designated a Living National Treasure in Japan, in 1968.
From, A Great Mirror of the Actors of the Heisei Period: Nakamura Utaemon as Agemaki in Sukeroku by Paul Binnie (1997)
Agemaki - is a character from the celebrated story Sukeroku, a story about love and revenge. It was first staged in kabuki in 1713. Agemaki is a famous courtesan who is in love with Sukeroku.
Edo Wonderland Nikko Mura - is an Edo stylized theme park based on the architecture of Edo Period (1603-1868) Japan, and is located in Tochigi Prefecture. There are other areas in Japan which contain Edo Period architecture and events, such as the Dutch Trading Post located on Dejima Island in Nagasaki. More info regarding Edo Wonderland, here. More info on the Dejima, Dutch Trading Post, here.
nō - is a traditional Japanese theatre based on ghost and mythological stories. It, like kabuki, uses dance, music, and drama to tell its story. It is older than kabuki and was patronized by the aristocratic class in Japan. Kabuki was the oppoosite, where the everyperson could enjoy kabuki, the aristrocrats enjoyed nō. Like kabuki, the stage is set in a traditional way, and the roles are played by men. For a more detailed descriptor of nō, you can find it at Japan-Guide.com, here.
Takarazuka - is an all female musical theatre troupe, based in Hyōgo Prefecture, and founded in 1914. The revue has become a popular Kansai tourist attraction. For a detailed description of the Takarazuka, their website in English can be found, here. A Crib’s Notes descriptor can be found, here.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) - was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter. He began to collect Japanese woodblock prints around the winter of 1886-1887 from the art dealer Siegfried Bing. he used to collect and to sell for a profit, although he didn’t sell very many. This collection would go on to influence much of his work.
Rebecca Salter - is the President of The Royal Academy of Arts, in London, England. She is also an artist who has written two books about Japanese woodblock printing, Japanese Woodblock Printing (2001), and Japanese Popular Prints (2006). She worked with the Satō Woodblock Print Workshop, documenting their process. Her interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here.
into the light II (2011)
Akira Kurosaki 黒崎彰 (1937-2019) - was one of the most influential woodblock print artists of the modern era. His work, while seemingly abstract, moved people with its vibrant colour and powerful composition. He was a teacher and invented the “Disc Baren,” which is a great baren to begin your mokuhanga journey with. At the 2021 Mokuhanga Conference in Nara, Japan there was a tribute exhibit of his life works. Azusa Gallery has a nice selection of his work, here.
W- 396, Wandering Heart (2017)
opening and closing musical credit - Yazoo: Too Pieces. From their 1982 album Upstairs At Eric's
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***The opinions expressed by guests in The Unfinished Print podcast are not necessarily those of André Zadorozny and of Popular Wheat Productions.***