Gallery Talk by Ruth Pelzer

1 Nov 2014

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Edinburgh Printmakers

Edinburgh, United Kingdom


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Pictures of the Floating World? Japanese print then, now and in between


Those unfamiliar with the Japanese term ‘ukiyo-e', would recognise the prints this expression describes. Of these prints, which were produced in 17th and early 19th century Japan, the most famous example is arguably Hokusai's ‘Great Wave'. Due to the iconic aesthetic of these images, ukiyo-e is culturally and commercially prominent and consistently exhibited worldwide, including the exhibition of 19th Century Japanese Kabuki (theatre prints) shown last winter at the Royal Museum of Scotland. Ruth's lecture will examine Japanese printmaking since the early 20th century, when ukiyo-e as a practice fell into decline and vibrant new movements emerged. Artists affiliated with the Sosaku Hanga (or Creative Print) movement created woodcuts that paralleled printmakers in the West in their production, manner and style. Alongside this, Shin Hanga (or Revival Print) movement continued reference to ukiyo-e within the contemporary field. Since the 1950s, Japanese printmaking has continued to revolutionise and expand, printmaking is now largely taught at universities rather than within the traditional workshop system. Nevertheless, the reference to ukiyo-e remains crucial to Japanese printmaking, as Lawrence Smith (2012) has argued. Drawing on her recent participation in the Second International Mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock) Conference at Tokyo Geidai University, Ruth will explore the implications of the Japanese print tradition for recent Japanese artists. She will question how contemporary artists relate to, reject, ignore and adapt this tradition, and look at the approaches to print Japanese artists take in the 21thcentury. Ruth Pelzer-Montada, PhD, is an artist and lecturer in Visual Culture in the School of Art at Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh. She regularly contributes to national and international conferences and her essays on contemporary printmaking have appeared in academic journals, conference proceedings, and online. She has written catalogue essays for Edinburgh Printmakers (the off-site project at Traquair House in the Scottish Borders in 2012), for artists, such as Jenny Smith (2004), Liz Douglas (2008), and former Head of Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art, Jacki Parry (2012).

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