In the Japanese Manner: Australian Prints from 1900-1940

The exhibition upstairs at the Perc Tucker Regional gallery right now is something rare and not to be missed. The travelling exhibition organised & curated by the National Gallery of Australia. It features early prints by Australian artists who had seen the Ukiyo-e or Woodblock prints from Japan. Ukiyo-e means pictures of the floating world, so the images are a moment captured and made timeless. The Japanese had an interesting way of showing the subject, never giving every detail and letting things run beyond the confines of the print; A lot different to European paintings, drawings and prints. Roger Butler was present at the opening and gave a talk about several of the works in the exhibition. Roger is the leading authority on Australian prints worldwide and works for the National Gallery of Australia. At the opening a heartfelt speech was given by Teruko Nakamura in which she thanked everyone for coming and talked a little bit about the recent disaster in Japan. There was also a register that guests could sign to show their support and be contacted about how they can help.

Probably the most informative part of the exhibition is the display of tools and a video showing how Ukiyo-e are traditionally made. The prints are made from blocks of wood carved by the artist. There are several blocks usually, one for each colour in the final print. The most famous of these traditional artists are Katsushika Hokusai and Ando Hiroshige. Around the room were the translation of this type of print from Japanese to Australian. Some prints were just as the Japanese had done, but some varied a lot by either using hand painted colours instead of printed, using lino to print rather than wood, or using a totally different medium like Oil based pants for printing rather than the water based paints used traditionally. I had no idea that the interpretation could be so varied, but each one still link back to the Japanese manner of printing.

A.B. Webb, Sunshine and shadow, 1923, linocut, printed in colour from multiple blocks, 20.4 h x 24.2 w cm, Purchased 1976

Guests on the opening night were encouraged to dress in the Japanese manner too, and many wore Kimonos or similar traditional robes. I even got a photo with a local Japanese girl who works at GYO in the city. Between speeches there was also a live demonstration of Koto music played by a Japanese woman. And of course the refreshments provided were sushi, no less!

I was so impressed with the collection, and I’m so happy I got to see all the prints by Australian artists in the Japanese manner, because the eastern way of seeing and their culture just fascinates me and seems to resonate inside me. The exhibition runs until 14th August (2011), and the opening was very exciting and informative, so if you don’t often go to openings, I highly recommend it! And even if you missed the opening, drop in to the gallery when you can because this is not to be missed.

Myself with a Japanese guest who dressed "In the Japanese Manner"

More photos can be found on Perc Tucker’s Facebook Page.

Posted in Art, Blog, Event, Exhibition, Japanese, Review Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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