Southern Vermont Arts Center presents Japanese Woodblock Prints: Then and Now -- two complimentary Mokuhanga exhibitions in Manchester, Vermont, this winter.
Hiroshige and the Changing Japanese Landscape, opening Saturday, November 20 in SVAC’s Elizabeth de C. Wilson, is a presentation of Utagawa Hiroshige’s (1797-1858) Japanese woodblock prints depicting how the political climate during 19th century Japan influenced its art and how the art influenced that climate. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, November 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibition will be on view through February 27, 2022.
Featured in this exhibition is Hiroshige’s full series of the Hoeido Tokaido that elevated him to the country’s most esteemed woodblock print masters through his treatment of the landscape as the main subject. Over the course of 55 images, the series takes the viewer on a journey along the Great Tokaido, an important coastal road that connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto, more than 300 miles away.
The exhibition will also highlight Hiroshige’s development as an artist in addition to including works by some of his contemporaries and influences. The whole exhibit is from the collection of Steven Schlussel, an SVAC artist-member who has been collecting for over half a century.
In addition, SVAC has invited New Hampshire-based artist Matt Brown to create a display of authentic tools and materials to bring to life the basic process of Japanese printing from multiple color wood blocks. A selection of Brown’s prints will be on display in the Wilson lobby.
Over in SVAC’s Yester House, a complimentary exhibition, The World Between The Block And The Paper, will run from December 11, 2021 through March, 27, 2022. This exhibition is organized in partnership with The Mokuhanga Sisters, a print collective, that met at the Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory, in the shadow of Mt Fuji, Japan, and bonded through their practice of mokuhanga.
Because it is time-consuming to produce, the practice of mokuhanga develops the intimacy between the artist and the print, revealing the poetry and soul of the artist at every step of the process. The artist will gauge by “feel” the depth of the carving, the dampness of the paper, the ratio of rice glue to pigment, the pressure placed on the baren (tool for rubbing). The artist is paying attention all the time to the senses, particularly to the sense of touch. Mokuhanga prints are produced in harmony with nature and do not leave a negative impact on the environment.
In this exhibition, the Mokuhanga Sisters invited about 20 teachers and friends to demonstrate the versatility of this ecologically-sound medium. Although it is possible to create a print after a one-day workshop, mastering this art form takes many hours of practice. In that way, everyone who practices Mokuhanga needs at least one teacher.