17 July 2021

Sumi Fusion Show in Japan

From November 30 – December 4, 2021, the Fourth International Mokuhanga Conference, called "Sumi Fusion," is scheduled to take place in Nara Japan. It's uncertain at this time whether the conference will be mostly online or a hybrid in-person/online event, but either way there will be a show called "Sumi Fusion" that will take place both online and in person in Nara. Nara is renowned as a center for the production of sumi ink, and the conference and the show will celebrate the versatility of sumi in woodblock printing and explore the presence of black and how it relates to color.

I wanted to submit something sumi-related for the show but I didn't have time to work up a print from scratch, so I went back to a block from one of my halftone prints in the Relics series and decided to experiment with putting down some colors as a base layer it and then printing the halftone block on top of the colors with sumi ink. I chose this block to work with:

This is the print from the Relics series that I made from this block, which I called "Our Lady":

 

For my Sumi Fusion print, I decided that it would be fun to also do an East/West fusion by using the uniquely American method of woodblock printing known as "Provincetown" or "white line" printing for the colors and then printing the halftone block Japanese style with sumi ink.

I began by laying some tracing paper over one of the Our Lady prints and making a sketch of where I wanted to place the colors. Then I reversed the tracing paper and used carbon paper to transfer the drawing to a piece of wood for the white line print. In white line, a v-gouge is used to make thin lines in the wood that will guide the placement of the inks (I used Guerra pigment dispersions but you can use watercolors or gouache). 

The block is pink because I had used it previously for the background colors in the Relics series.
 

Here's what the print looked like before I put down the sumi layer:


 
 And here's what happened when the sumi was added:


 I'm titling this print "Matrix," both because of the word's meaning as "mother" and also because it's the second time I'm using this particular carved matrix, and using it in a different way.
 
Since this was just an experiment, I made a small edition of four. I always love seeing these prints at varying distances—the way the image comes together and comes apart depending on how close you are to it.

The deadline to submit work for the Sumi Fusion Show has been extended until July 31, so if you want to submit the link is here. At US$50 the entry fee is admittedly high. I feel OK about that because I see it as a way to support the International Mokuhanga Association. The international panel of judges is impressive, which is sometimes a good reason to spring for a fee as well. Judges include Leonie Bradley (artist and editor of Printmaking Today), Hiroko Furuya (professor at Tama Art University), Takuji Hamanaka (awesomely creative mokuhanga artist living in the US), and Yasu Shibata (master printer at Pace Editions).

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