Monday, May 26, 2014

Japanese Prints

Wow, so simple and sooo beautiful ... Japanese prints, and I am not the only one who is impressed by this imagery, for centuries Japanese art inspired artists all over the world. The exhibition 'Verstilde schoonheid op Japanse prenten' (Tranquil Beauty on Japanese Prints) at Centre Céramique in Maastricht shows the influence of those wood prints on European artists.

In 1851 the Japanese borders were opened and Japan participated in the World Exhibition in London in 1862. Japanese products were exported all over the world, and Japan and its products and art became super fashionable. Japonism even became an art movement for a while. Especially impressionist artists were influenced by Japanese prints, such as Manet, Monet and Van Gogh. The American artist Bertha Lum made beautiful woodcut prints based on Japanese themes:

Woodblock Printing
Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries, but was only widely adopted in Japan during the Edo-period (1603-1867) were it was used to create the ukiyo-e. The production was fairly simple, but also very precise. A number of persons was involved in the process, like the designer, the woodcut artist and the printer. First a sketch was drawn on Washi-paper. This sheet was put on the wooden block and everything outside the lines was cut away, so the image was mirrored. Every colour had it's own wooden block, so colorful images were more expensive. The wooden blocks were pressed on damp paper and the printer used a 'baren' to rub the ink in the paper. An early form of mass production.

The Edo-period has been named after the city Edo (Tokyo). Because the entourage and the military top were required to live close to the Shogun, Edo became a very wealthy city, with a flourishing cultural live. Teahouses, restaurants, gambling houses, bathhouses, theaters and brothels were the symbols of this rich and fleeting (ukiyo) world. Artists were inspired by this new world, and a new art movement was born: Ukiyo-e, means image of the fleeting world.

Shin Hanga
Early twentieth century the ukiyo-e was restored by artists such as Goyo, Kotondo, Kiyoshi, Shinsui Ito and Shiro Kasamatsu. Characteristic is the reference to classic images, but with a modern twist. For example, the modern women (moga) don't look down, the just look you in the eye ... the courtesans at the antique ukiyo-e always looked down. Kasamatsu was one of the most respected of the Shin Hanga artists, his specialty was landscapes:

This was just a very very short resume of Japanese woodblock print art. Since I am extremely fascinated by the Japanese culture and Japanese art the coming weeks I will blog about Japanese patterns, artists and bookbinding. Hope to see you on my Japanese tour :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wooden Books

In the vast maze of information once in a while something stands out. Last week my eye was caught by a beautiful wooden book. In the monthly magazine of the National Library of Australia I read an item about 'Old, Rare and Beautiful Books on Indonesia', because my eyes were triggered by a colorful illustration of fish. Since I am taking an illustration class these days, illustrations have my special attention :)

But the next page contained even a bigger surprise; a book made of bark. The library owns two Batak bark books of uncertain age. The Batak people of northern Sumatra had their own script, which is seen in tree-bark manuscripts created by magicians and healers for their rituals, oracles and medical recipes.
The book is very simple, it is accordion shaped and it looks like only one side has been described. The picture is a bit grotesque, because the size of the booklet is actually very small; 8 x 6 x 1 cm (folded). A very handy, small notebook :)

Batak Bark Book - Sumatra

Bark is not the only thing used to write on in earlier times, Indonesians also used to write on palm-leaf. The examples in the Australian library are not of great age, as writings on such fragile material do not survive well in the tropics. The acquired manuscripts are copies, believed to date from the nineteenth or twentieth century.

These books reminded me of the birch bark I brought back home from Norway last summer. It is still somewhere deep down in my closet ... time to make my own bark book :) Perhaps to write down some modern oracles :)

Of course I also want to show the image that first triggered my attention, the beautiful illustration of fish.

illustration fish

Monday, May 5, 2014

4 May - Remembrance Day

May 4th, a day to remember ... a day for remembrance. This day commemorates all civilians and members of armed forces of The Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. In Rotterdam mayor Aboutaleb together with prime minister Rutte were present at the Remembrance Ceremony in Crooswijk. Under the leadership of the ZangExpress, children of the Bavokring sang a song and handed over poems they wrote about Remembrance Day.

Prien has been commisioned by the ZangExpress to bind those poems into a booklet. It was such a nice assignment. The poems were really beautiful, some made me think, other made me laugh. I gathered some lines that stood out (in Dutch):

Vrijheid is vrij zijn
Vrijheid is blij zijn
vrijheid is voor ieder één
Vrijheid is vrij zijn van de oorlog
iedereen mag vrij zijn
of je nou: turks, marokaans, afrikaans
antilliaans, surinaams, of chinees bent.
We zijn nu vrij
dat maakt iedereen
blij. Zo moet het zijn.
Ik heb een wens
voor de vrede. De mensen hebben
voor elkaar respect.
Zonder vrijheid geen blijheid
gelukkig is de oorlog voorbij
Voor al die mensen die ons hebben gered
wij allemaal vinden jullie een held
Hitler hij deed erge dingen voor mensen
en hij droeg geen lenzen. Als hij dat zag
moest hij zien wat hij met de menshijd deed

Thank you very much for your poems and stories: Nurya, Cairo & Rohit, Dilda, Bafode & Jaden, Esmagül, Aymane & Volkan, Rana, Sara, Imane, Vanadil, Ilyas, Jamel, Bilal, Oguzhan, Moga,Thijmen, Kayra, Trishana.

Mark Rutte en Aboutaleb met ZangExpress boekje van Prien