Shusui

"An Encounter with a Traditional Woodblock Print"

By Shusui Taki, Japanese Woodblock Print Artist

I encoutered with a piece of Ukiyo-e (Japanese Woodblock Print) at a traditional fine art shop in front of a station in local area, and I bought it at once. It was a woodblock print portraying the beauty of an alluring courtesan by Eisen Keisai (1790 - 1848), who was a woodblock print artist in the last days of Tokugawa shogunate.
That picture was made jointly and perfectly in tune with each other by a painter, a engraver, and a printer of the woodblock print to produce the beauty. Eisen was a painter.
When I saw that picture,‚hwas completely caught up in the picture unique in the world.
I could not forget such a deep impression on me at that time.

I perform the triple role of painter, engraver and printer by myself. These processes are usually assigned to each artist for one process, and no difference in dimensions is allowed among these processes. Ukiyo-e is mainly a line drawing, in which there is no shadow. To aquire skills of engraving and printing, it is said that it takes about 5 years for engraving and 10 years for printing, respectively.
When I have performed recently printing for 10 days, my weight decreased by about 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds). If someone asks me why I continue to make Ukiyo-e so much exhaustingly, I will answer as follows:
Without damaging any soft lines of woman, I would like to show how beautiful the woman body is, and I would retain the attractiveness of woman on a washi (Japanese paper) showing the marvellous figure in kimono (Japanese clothes) and pursuing the beauty of a feeling of shyness and seductiveness. This is my romantic dream. I wish I could represent the beauty in Ukiyo-e which would be attractive not only to men but also to women.


To sharpen a chisel with a nicked edge on a whetstone, one have to use five types of whetstones successively. First to restore an original shape of the edge one uses a rough whetstone, then to sharpen the edge one uses three types of whetstones, namely 'Bisui', 'Nakura' and 'Mejiro', successively, and to shapen finally the chisel one works with a fine whetstone for about one hour. Someone may wonder why it should take so much time to sharpen a chisel. I think it is a battle with myself, and a trial of my mind,
I use the sharpened chisel very carefully. The more carefully the chisel is used, the more long the sharpness will endure. My gratitude for the tool makes me handle it carefully and it would lead me to a good work.
All the tools and materials would contribute to my successful expression of artistic feelings.
There might be few artists who are self-taught of woodblock print, collecting and studying Ukiyo-e prints of the Edo period, like me. It might also be difficult for an extraordinary artist like me to be recognized in Japan.
However I was rewarded with many prizes for ten years since 1986, for example, the grand prix of '89 Le Salon de Paris, the grand prix of '92 Villefranche International Art Exhibition. My works were also exhibited at '91 Japan Festival held in England, and one of my works has been stored at the British Museum. Considering this, there might be no border in the world of art.


I completed in 1985 a series of "Musume Junikagetsu Soroi" (Girls in 12 months a Set) after 6 years of elaborating. Now I am working on "Irezumi Ai Juni Soroi" (Tatoo of Indigo-blue in 12 Pieces a Set), which includes 12 works and for which I have spent about 10 years. This series of 12 pieces will be completed within about 2 years. From now on I will work on the theme "Heian No Miyabi" (Elegance in the Heian period = 794 - 1192), in which I would like to represent as my lifework the unique beauty the Japanese had in that period.


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