Posted by Dave Bull at 9:10 PM, January 31, 2016 [Permalink]
I put 'mashup' as a title for this post, but I really had no idea what term to use ... Let me show you something that has happened here over the past couple of days, and you can then perhaps suggest something to me ...
First, here's a (bad) photo, snapped by one of our staffers this morning. Ayumi-san is in the background, doing you know what (!), and I was having an impromptu proofing session with a couple of guests from Hong Kong.
The session was pre-arranged. The couple had been here last week for a Print Party and after we had spent an hour or so together making that simple print, they let me know that they had brought some of their own prints with them.
Now I had known that they (a young couple from Hong Kong) were interested in woodblock printmaking, and knew that they were currently working with my friend Mr. Motoharu Asaka at his Takumi workshop. (He runs classes and teaches traditional printmaking, and we have sent quite a number of people over there over the past year or so ...)
But I wasn't prepared to see a comprehensive portfolio of prints that they had made together. They both work on each design, and once it's finalised, he carves a block set, and she then prints.
Most of the prints they showed me that day were quite nicely executed, but didn't really 'do' anything for me design-wise. But one item in their little stack of prints made me sit up and take notice ... and brought a huge smile to my face. I immediately started a conversation about getting this print into our shop, because I was sure that there would be other people interested in it too.
It turned out that they had only made one or two copies, and had then left the blocks back in Hong Kong, so there seemed no way to move forward, but I was really interested in this one, so pushed them to have the blocks sent here. "Let me know when they arrive, and let's have a proofing session together, to see how we might move this forward ..."
The blocks arrived the other day, so here we were this morning, having a go at it.
Here is the young couple - Chung and Rei - inspecting one of the sheets ...
... and here is a glimpse of the print ...
Any shin-hanga fans out there? Recognise the image?
OK, enough teasing. Here is the key block (before printing):
After printing ...
And the print itself (this is the copy from their portfolio that they showed me the other day ...)
Now the longer I look at this, the more I'm jumping up and down in my seat with excitement. I think this is so wonderfully executed. They have studied the original Hashiguchi Goyo print line by line, but haven't copied it mindlessly; they have drawn their own print in recognition of the original and adding - of course - the mashing up with the modern character. And Chung-san's carved lines are so beautifully done! Do you know the lady portrayed here? She actually doesn't exist (although she has given plenty of live concerts ...) It's the young 'lady' known as Hatsune Miku, 'born' in 2007.
So, what's our plan here? We're not exactly sure yet, because where we go on this depends on a few things:
- it turns out that their block set is unusable as it stands. Chung-san carved on very soft magnolia, on very thin wood, and as I tried to proof this morning, the key block warped out of control before I had pulled more than a few sheets. We've decided that I'm going to laminate them onto a plywood base, in the hope that we can stabilise them.
- but he has carved the colour blocks on both sides of the thin planks, so we're going to sacrifice one side of each, laminate them down to use the other side, and then re-cut the sacrificed sides on new wood.
- who will print? Chung and Rei are getting quite skilled, but they have no experience (or ability) to pull larger editions. So our thinking at present is that under our direction and advice, the two of them will (once the block set is stabilised and ready) pull a fairly small batch (a dozen or so) as a trial. They'll sign them together, and we'll put them into the Mokuhankan catalogue (and shop) as part of our 'Guest Corner'. If the reaction from our fans is as positive as I expect, those ten prints will fly away, and we'll then turn the blocks over to our staff printers for a 'regular' Mokuhankan edition (unsigned, etc., and less expensive).
In the meantime, I've asked them to get started on another one. They are now studying the famous Goyo image of a woman applying makeup, to see what they might do with it.
And there is yet another aspect to this that is really keeping me wiggling in my chair today. Look at these closeups of his carving!
... and ...
Woot! And he wants work! He has come this far being self taught, and is now working with Asaka-san to really hone his techniques, something I never had the patience to do. This is such great news!
So please hang on for a while ... it's perhaps going to take us a bit of time to get this print into production, because we've kind of got a 'few' things cooking all at once here, but please stay tuned!
Added by: Dave on January 31, 2016 10:46 PM
I'm very interested to see what some of our 'regular readers' are going to say about this. I fully expect that some of the shin-hanga collectors who visit these pages may not be quite as excited about this project as I am.
But I don't think that I am 'unique' here - having a good understanding of the shin-hanga genre, plus a fairly good knowledge of current pop culture here in Japan. After all, this young couple shares that kind of knowledge too ...
Anyway, we'll see ... Please let me know what you think about this - plus or minus!
Added by: Franz Rogar on January 31, 2016 11:22 PM
I've some shin-hanga prints (basically Hasui ones) and the only portraits prints I own are the Ukiyo-e Portraits.
Having said that, I like the composition and, IMHO, I would look not for a classic nishiki-e collector but a new modern buyer (like the Ukiyo-e Heroes project).
I like composition (Goyo was a master at such) and the design is wonderfully executed.
My personal opinion, they should (using good blocks...) start a Kickstarter with something like Yoshitoshi's "Thirty-Two Aspects of Women".
Definitely, would be a nice collection (if guided by your hand in themes ;-)
Added by: Franz Rogar on January 31, 2016 11:26 PM
Note: when I wrote "with something like Yoshitoshi" I meant "with a portrait series as Yoshitoshi did" (or Henry too).
Added by: mike l. on January 31, 2016 11:58 PM
I think it's a lovely print and may well have the same kind of interest as the 'heroes' portraits and such do. It's such an interesting combination of traditional craft and present day imagery. I hope it does really well!
Added by: Jacques on February 1, 2016 12:55 AM
Until today I had never heard of Hatsune Miku, so when looking at this blend of Hashiguchi Goyo's gorgeous "Women combing her hair" print (a copy of which I was able to obtain a few years back thanks to your great help) and Hatsune Miku I'm afraid I'm missing out on half of the fun...
But I'm sure the print might do very well for fans of Hatsune Miku and Hashiguchi Goyo's prints. And maybe you found yourself another carver to do work for Mokuhankan, that also would be wonderful!
Added by: Marc Kahn on February 1, 2016 2:33 AM
I'm probably one of those "shin-hanga collectors" you refer to, but I am nevertheless excited about this development. These 2 are definitely worth your time to work with.
Their artistic sensibilities are brilliant. The non-intuitive rendering of the eyes (both as carved and as printed) is very effective. The way he carved the eyebrow line crossing the hair strands, with unbroken continuity in both directions is just a glimpse, I think, of what is to come.
In the early 20th century, there were 2 separate disciplines for hanga, shin-hanga and sosaku hanga. In shin-hanga, there were multiple highly skilled players (artist plus craftsmen plus publisher) involved in producing a print. In sosaku hanga, the artist worked alone, sacrificing some of the beautiful craftsmanship in the interest of a purity of vision/execution.
In my eyes, Chung and Rei, working as "one artist", have to potential to tap into the best of both approaches.
Like most young artists in today's difficult economy, they probably need a day job. I think that the fates were being kind to you both by leading them to your door just as you expanded the workspace in your Mokuhankan building. Looks like a Win-Win to me!
Added by: Andrew Stone on February 1, 2016 3:42 AM
I think this is clever, lovely, a great idea and well executed. I'd buy one....I'm not sure I see a "series" though, as then it becomes a little too derivative and a gimmick. A.
Added by: Franz Rogar on February 1, 2016 6:52 AM
I, as exception, did know "what" Hatsune Miku was... And I could recognize her in the color print, not in the keyblock (it just look a generic manga character).
Andrew, it depends on how they make the series (that's why I suggested with the guidance of Dave). The best example would be the one of Yoshitoshi: all of them where completely unique and lovely. Manga style is a true versatile tool if used properly (or your doom if you make any minor mistake to the design...)
Anyway, I do see a good foundation to some interesting results from those 2. Just offer them a bench ;-)
Added by: Jakub Makalowski on February 25, 2016 12:04 PM
Are they here for a long term? I would very much like to possible meet them sometime and talk a bit, seeing how they are at a similar position as myself, though regrettably some problems have completely halted my progress the last two, three months.
I do have to say I would have never guessed the character without her signature hairstyle.
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