International Mokuhanga Conference 2014 - Tokyo

The 2nd International Mokuhanga Conference was hosted by Tokyo University of the Arts, with the Satellite show held at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. On Thursday I attended the Washi Dialogue - Printmakers Meet Papermakers after spending some time in the gallery absorbed in the Printmaking Studio / AIR Showcase exhibition. Feeling excited and moved by some of the possibilities and potential of Mokuhanga and impressed by the artists I met (Melbourne Printmaking), my hands were itching to get carving. 

Friday brought the opportunity to browse the wondrous Isetatsu paper shop to stock up on decorative woodblock printed papers, wander the haunting Yanaka Rei-en cemetery and visit Scai the Bathhouse gallery. I hot-footed it to Omotesando to catch the Letterpress From London exhibition at Paul Smith Space, where a collection of inspiring London-based printer makers presented an eclectic selection of Letterpress broadsides, books and ephemera. The exquisite work of Harrington and Squires made me feel homesick for England and for my own Adana press. 

I returned to 3331 Arts Chiyoda later on to listen to the The AIR Open Forum, where printmaking studios introduced their workshops and artist-in-residence programs. The opening reception was a good opportunity to talk to the directors and representatives of international studios and meet talented artists such as Dolores de Sade of East London Printmakers and Toshihiko Ikeda currently showing at Museum of Machida

On Sunday I spent the day at the main site of the IMC as a delegate attending a packed schedule of lectures and exhibition viewing. The speakers lectured on a huge variety of subjects and were so informative and inspiring. A few highlights for me were the artists' talks by Norwegian artist Karen Helga Murstig who spoke of Nordic light, snow, paper and print, and Katie Baldwin whose collaborative project 'Wood Paper Box' described a ten year friendship bound by Mokuhanga evolving into a 1 year project between the 3 printmakers with stunning results. A beautifully titled paper 'Handing out Happiness' delivered by the magnetic Tuula Moilanen was pure inspiration, focusing on  Japanese subjects of happiness in the form of mokuhanga ephemera. I was privileged to hear Yuasa Katsutoshi discuss the concern in the decline of Japanese elementary school children being taught mokuhanga in the current curriculum, and lucky to hear Kitamura Shouichi, master woodblock carver talk about his recent printmaking collaboration with Ogawa Eitaro in Shanghai. 

During the lunch break I explored the group exhibition 'The Content', where I could view the beautiful 'Wood Paper Box' collaboration as well as 'Yuki', a small collection of artists' print responses to the notion of snow. The Artist Print Book Exhibition 'Mokuhan-Ehon' showed treasures from the talented Karen Kunc and the lovely Sumi Perera . The wonderful humour and simplicity of the book by Tuula Moilanen stayed with me, as did the stunning mokuhanga works of a current student at Tokyo University of the Arts, who beautifully depicted moments titled 'Sigh' in woodblock and watercolour. The conference filled me with ideas and knowledge in an area I long to flourish, yet am only a sapling.