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.

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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!

My solo show is up in Material Gallery, and looks really nice! This is a cosy shop in a cute market town called Ludlow, in the heart of Shropshire, that is gaining a well-deserved reputation for fantastic books and magazines on design, as well as printed works and design led gifts.

I am showing prints, books and animations from the past few years, and in this space the different series of works seem to talk to each other…

Three Sleeper prints from 2009 hang in the main room, next to my first lithograph, Tiger Twins; both series depict dream-like interactions between sleeping girls and fictional beasts.

The Tiger Twins print was made in Aberystwyth School of Art with Tamarind Master Printer Paul Croft, and subsequently metamorphosed into the inspiration for my series of linocuts called Devour, one of which became the cover of last year’s Orange fiction prize winner,”The Tiger’s Wife.” So it seemed appropriate to order in a few copies of The Tiger’s Wife and put my autotgraph inside!

The Tiger books sit next to a wall full of fish. These prints I made in 2002 when I was fresh back from Japan and working in Kent close to a koi carp farm. I gave all of these fish completely fanciful names, like Fatso Bubbles, Dragon Baby and Record Groove, and it was my first project in a print studio in the UK.

Tucked into the bookshelf of Tigers we hid a mini projector and made a tiny screen at eye level to show my animations. This was a good solution to finding a dark spot in the shop for a movie screen without compromising the lighting elsewhere.  Shift, Costanza, Lucid Mask,and Time Slice films play on a continuous loop. You can view all of these on youtube if you click on the links on each of their names.

In the show, there are three types of mask print: the Mask prints from 2008 in glowing silkscreened colours; the Lucid Mask animation from 2010, and Fractured Masks from my residency in Liverpool’s Bluecoat in the same year. I wanted to show prints which have not been shown much since I made them.

The work from past two years on ghostly clothing takes up a good portion of the back of the shop. There are Dancing Dresses and pieces from the Shadow Dance series, which depicted clothing from Native American archives in the late 19C.

Next to these, the latest pages from the book Swallow are pinned to the wall.

Talking of books, underneath the Dancing Dress prints are a selection of 14 of my smaller hand printed and laser copied books including many flip books and books with hidden pages and unusual folds.

The whole show has more than 40 prints, and runs until the 27th May. 131 Corve Street, Ludlow. Catch it if you can!