Back in January I was asked to give a demo of Japanese Woodblock printing at the British museum for the Hokusai show, “Beyond the Great Wave” (which celebrates the artist in the last three decades of his life). Hokusai Prep 7It was a great excuse to spend a lot of time poring over Hokusai’s huge output. I began to admire his unerring brushstroke, and radical, often humorous compositions. Hokusai Prep 8

I’d promised to make a Hokusai-inspired work for the demo, but how I could even start to make a comparable rendition of modern day London? I thought briefly about depicting Whitechapel with cycle couriers: let’s face it, this is probably the closest equivalent to the Tokkaido, or a distant view of St Paul’s in the rain instead of Mount Fuji. Hmmm… I was stuck.

Hokusai Prep 11So I decided I’d look closer at the place where he is now being shown, the British Museum. This place is a veritable temple to the arts, with ionic columns lining the walkway up to the main central hall, and the most beautiful shimmering glass dome that brings a soft brightness to the courtyard inside.

Hokusai Prep 12We look at iconic images, like Monet’s Haystacks, Chagall’s Flying Lovers and Hokusai’s Wave, and the world is subsequently and irretrievably coloured by having seen them. These images are unforgettable, inspiring, desired and thus overused and parodied. At the same time, we like to place ourselves in the picture. Is it selfiegenic? Where do I exist in relation to this?

Hokusai Prep 6The prints I designed are about Hokusai becoming part of my identity: I can hide behind him, and he represents some of what I aspire to be (not caring about much apart from making paintings every day, with a factory of workers transforming them to prints, and hoping to live to 110…)

Hokusai Prep 3Hokusai Prep 4Hokusai Prep 5The demo on 5th June was a very exciting event. We set up in a hall full of of Greek marble sculptures, surrounded by sinuous sea lions and against a backdrop of three headless female dancers in revealing dresses.

Hokusai 01It was really echoey and a bit dark, so they put in some spotlights.

Hokusai 1I was incredibly lucky that my students from the last Japanese woodblock class (in East London Printmakers in May) were very keen to come help out for the evening, as there were loads of customers!

Hokusai 3I talked about the fundamentals of Japanese woodblock printing, showed how to print a three colour print, and then the public had a go at printing a mystery five colour print. Hokusai 2There was one colour and block per table and they had to take a piece of damp paper and print it, then move around the room. Students helped supervise and guide how much water, glue and ink to put on the blocks. Hokusai 4It was busy and chaotic but thrilling to see the results.

Hokusai Prep 9

Hokusai Prep 10

The British Museum show is highly recommended. It’s on til 13 Aug, with a change over of prints in early July (3–6). For more information please see

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx

I’m running a course in Japanese woodblock printing in East London Printmakers this Autumn, For more information please see https://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk/course/japanese-woodblock-2/

Hokusai Prep 13Finally, if you’d like to buy one of the prints, please get in touch!

Advertisements

Well this year is drawing to a wet and muddy close, but we are all still alive and very much looking forward to the new one! Hopefully the snake will bring wisdom and fearlessness to our decisions… Happy Holidays to you all!

New_year_snake_e