Thursday, December 8, 2011

Printmaking with Yuji Hiratsuka

Art is like a seasoning when you cook;
 without it, life is tasteless and boring.
~ Yuji Hiratsuka*

Oregon Public Broadcasting recently interviewed contemporary award-winning printmaker Yuji Hiratsuka, a master of the intaglio process** and chine colle. A native of Japan who has lived in the United States since he was 33 and who teaches printmaking at Oregon State University, the widely exhibited Hiratsuka draws from his Japanese influences and from contemporary images to make prints that are uniquely his own. He notes in his OSU profile that he "deal[s] with more metaphorical aspects rather than realistic physical evidence" and is "interested in expressing human conditions such as mood, feeling and throught through ambiguous and whimsical figures." 

In the United States, Hiratsuka's work can be found in collections of the Library of Congress, Cincinnati Art Museum, Elgin Community College, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, Hallmark Cards, Portland (Oregon) Art Museum, Oregon State University, and State University of New York/Potsdam, among others. 

Currently, Hiratsuka's work is on view in Portland (Oregon) Art Museum's "The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand". Continuing through January 22, 2012, the show of more than 250 prints  (many quite rare in North American collections and some 150 being shown for the first time) is drawn from the museum's own considerable collection and covers three centuries, from the late 17th Century to today. Among the work being exhibited are privately commissioned early 19th Century prints called surimono, actor prints from the 18th Century, and work by Hokusai and Harunobu. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the show. In conjunction with the exhibition, the PMA is sponsoring Adopt a Print (all "adoptions" are unique and tax-deductible).

Enjoy this brief OPB video, which is a good introduction to how Hiratsuka creates his four-color prints:


* Quoted in "A 'Touch' of Japanese Art" by Hannah Noble in Vanguard (Portland State University), October 6, 2011

** Intaglio involves incising an image into the surface of a copper plate (the plate might also be of zinc or steel), using various tools or acid, inking the plate, and then wiping the surface clean so that the ink remains only in the incised areas. As demonstrated in the video, once he draws an image, Hiratsuka transfers it to a copper plate, sometimes altering it in the process, using one of a number of techniques, including etching and softground, drypoint, and aquatint, and a roulette (printmaking tool); he then hand-prints the image, following a labor-intensive process in which each of four colors (black, yellow, red, blue) is passed, in the defined sequence, separately through the press. He may make alterations to the plate after a pull. He prints on a thin Japanese mulberry paper, which, after a last step of hand-tinting on the reverse, is glued to a heavier rag paper (typically a well-known type such as BFK Rives or Somerset).  

Of Related Interest

Profiles of Yuji Hiratsuka at International Print Center and Artelino

Selection of Hiratsuka's Images at Castle Fine ArtsWhite Lotus Gallery, and California Society of Printmakers (Notice that the faces in Hiratsuka's portraits are rendered without eyes or noses.)

Earlier this year Hiratsuka's prints were exhibited at Portland Community College in "Yuji Hiratsuka - Figures: Dialogue/Monologue". Here's a brief video showing some of Hiratsuka's prints at the exhibit:

Yuji Hiratsuka "Figures: Dialogue/Monologue" from Ben Starkey on Vimeo.

What Is a Print? Interactive Demonstration from MoMA

Printmaking Explained at Crown Point Press


S. Etole said...

What a great quote! I'll have to share it with my artist son.

Louise Gallagher said...

That was fascinating. I love what he says about art not being just one direction -- in reference to learning from his students.

Thanks so much for sharing Yuji's art making!

Paul Sunstone said...

I like that quote, too! Thanks for posting it!

nance marie said...

i would like to view this with casey during her school break.

thanks for posting all of this information, this is wonderful.