New recruit at Buxton Museum: Nikki Anderson shines some light on an equally new exhibition that showcases a lesser-known part of Derbyshire’s art collection:

 If you are interested in Japanese art and woodblock printing then there is a great exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery you must see. This exhibition is to celebrate 20 years of the twinning of Derbyshire and Toyota City in Aichi Province, Japan.

As a Textile Designer myself I was excited to be able to enjoy this amazing exhibition and view the incredible detail in each work up close.

image subject to copyright

The print ‘Mimi’ by Yoshimi Okamoto grabbed my attention immediately. It is particularly interesting, and the vivid colours of the blue sky achieved by using Japanese water based inks are prominent. The use of blank space is intriguing and it’s as if the sky above is so far away it is in another world. I could find little information on the print, but the artist was a pupil of Toshi Yoshida’s Art school Toshi being one of The Yoshida Family Artists, a group whose work became known for its innovation. The artists were using traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques and being influenced by Western styles. These 20th Century new generation artists were pushing the boundaries in art and the Shin-hanga ‘new prints’ movement was born.

The Yoshida Studio was established in 1925 by Toshi Yoshida’s parents Hiroshi Yoshida and Fujio Yoshida. After the death of his father, Toshi (his first-born son) took over the studio in which is younger brother also joined.

The Yoshida brothers, Yoshimi Okamoto and the other studio artists’ all shared similar concepts and in art and are known for their use of colour field abstraction and asymmetrical compositions and leaving large areas of empty space within the art work. They brought a whole new array of ideas in terms of the placing of the subject matter in the painting. In ‘Mimi’ by Yoshimi Okamoto a large proportion of the space is left white, the vivid blue sky is at the very top and the farmhouse is bottom right and the long grass is cut off at the bottom of the painting. A similar composition can also be seen in the work ‘Silent Landscape’ by Hodaka Yoshido.

In terms of the printing process the artists kept more in line with traditional woodblock printing although Hodaka Yoshido would also use other printing methods such as lithograph, silk screen and photo-transfer method.

A bit about woodblock printing techniques:

Bokashi: Bokashi is a technique creating variations in lightness and darkness of colours. This effect is achieved by hand applying a graduation of ink to a moistened wooden printing block.

Fukibokash: This technique will give inconsistent results from print to print and requires gradations of ink to be applied to the printing block.

Itabokashi: Here, uneven edges on areas of colour are achieved by ’block shading’. By first cutting an area slightly larger than needed for a colour, the abrading the edges of that area to make the transition from that colour less sharp. requires gradations of ink to be applied to the printing block. Again, like Fukibokash, Itabokashi was not a precise technique and would deliver inconsistent results.

What techniques do you think have been used in the prints on display?

You can see the Japanese art for yourself until mid March, alongside other exhibitions, all admission free. Over the festive season; we are open on Thursday 27th, Friday 28th and Saturday 29th, 10am to 5pm.