What's this Challenge about?
To restart the AIR of water-based woodblock printmaking!
Water-based woodblock printmaking (Mokuhanga) has been developed in Japan, featuring beautiful and soft expressions with multiple colors.
Ukiyo-e and Shin-hanga have become famous not only in Japan but also overseas, and there have been quite a few overseas artists who want to learn the techniques of Mokuhanga.
Using eco-friendly natural materials is also attracting more and more attention of printmakers from overseas who are keen to environmental issues.
The International Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory (MI-LAB) has been operating an artist-in-residence (AIR) for overseas artists since 1997, and has built a large network of artists, artisans and manufacturers at home and abroad, introducing techniques, tools, and materials of water-based woodblock printmaking.
Due to COVID-19, however, we were obliged to give up holding AIR programs for two consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. Currently, the movement of people across national borders is restricted.
On the other hand, it is expected that vaccination in Japan will progress, which will enable to ease the movement of people in the future.
We are preparing to restart MI-LAB AIR, where we can provide overseas artists with the opportunity to learn Mokuhanga and create new artworks.
Overcome difficulties through collaboration
Under the influence of COVID-19, MI-LAB has shifted its business focus from accepting overseas artists to domestic activities: holding group exhibitions by instructors and staff, live broadcast of artist talks, publishing a technique book based on the teaching methods of the basic program of MI-LAB AIR, collaboration with manufacturers of tools and materials that have long been in cooperation, and so on. Since the technique book was published as an e-book, we needed to become familiar with digitization, such as the recording technique of explanatory videos and the procedure related to layout and publication of the e-book. It was a great opportunity for us to gain various experiences and knowledge
COVID-19 has been influencing seriously on the manufacturers and distributors of tools and materials such as chisels, Japanese paper, and paints.
Therefore, in cooperation with the companies that have supported the activities of M-LAB, we held the "2021 Summer Mokuhanga Fair" with the aim of revitalizing dialogue between artists and manufacturers / distributors. We could manage to make the artists related to MI-LAB involved in the process of development and promotions of some materials.
Our Mokuhanga artists participated in the development of Japanese paper for woodblock prints, which started before COVID-19, and the promotion of new vivid opaque watercolors, which was extended to this year due to the pandemic, giving their knowledge and skills.
We were able to create a continuous system of cooperation and promote dialogue to deepen mutual understanding.
As a result, we have decided to hold the Mokuhanga Fair consisting of three departments: a juried exhibition, workshops, and a product show, to promote sales of new tools and art materials and research their usability.
At the juried exhibition, we solicited woodblock printmakers who can create new works using the new Japanese paper and new paints provided by the organizer. 29 excellent works created by 15 selected artists and 2 invited artists were exhibited.
Even though they used almost the same materials and the same technique, a wide variety of works came out, and we could feel the great potential of Mokuhanga in contemporary art.
In the framework of the exhibition a round-table between the artists and a traditional craftsman of Japanese paper was held. There was a lively exchange of opinions and information among participants.
We were able to realize a dialogue between the users and the creators, which was one of the aims of the fair. We are expecting further exchanges in the future.
The workshop was conducted by the instructors from a manufacturer and M-LAB, using the tools and materials used by the selected artists of the juried exhibition.
We received many inquiries from the beginning of the recruitment of participants. Despite the concern of cancellation due to the state of emergency issued just before the event, all the 8 workshops were full. Amateur printmakers and students from art universities came and learned carving, printing and sharpening cutting tools.
At the product show manufacturers and distributors of tools and materials had their booths.
We were able to provide professional artists and amateur printmakers with the opportunity to receive expert advice and try new tools or materials.
For a new learning community!
We have had difficult times dew to COVID-19: lost business opportunities and suffered from a decrease in sales. In this process, however, we are overcoming the difficulties through the cooperation of various people involved in water-based woodblock printmaking.
We can recognize a new perspective of our collaborative work. We are preparing for a better community of learning Mokuhanga for those artists who have similar painful experiences abroad now. We are looking forward to seeing your Japan.
From contemporary art to classical books
MI-LAB provides contemporary artists with the opportunity not only to create water-based woodblock prints, but also to learn the Japanese printing and publishing culture, which dates back 1300 years and is characterized by the symbiosis of letters and pictures
In the Upper Advanced Program, you can learn traditional Japanese framing techniques (HYOSO) and make scrolls, folding screens, hanging scrolls, bound books and folding books.
All of these forms are available for artist books. Through the techniques and materials used in HYOSO, you can understand the rational and continuous way of thinking that presupposes restoration, which is the basis of Japanese culture. It is also in line with sustainability, which is often mentioned these days.