Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hokusai, the movie

I will never be as hip as my friend Jay, who sent me this great little movie a few months ago.  I like this film on so many levels - soft-handed animation of Hokusai's prints, a succinct art history lesson, all wrapped in a cool lo-fi quality.

Watching Tony White's creation (made way back in 1978, buy the way) gets me thinking about how frequently Japanese prints make their way into contemporary art and design, from little ubiquitous quotes like this tee-shirt ($49.99(!) on Ebay)


to full-fledged inspiration as seen in the art of Masami Teraoka, Roger Shimomura (really obvious examples - send me yours), or a recent favorite of mine, Eva Pietzcker, and how often most viewers aren't aware of the real source material.  This can get me down worrying about how my generation or the next will ever get excited about Japanese prints, (and sure, for my sake, start collecting them.)  Then I see something like this video for a (beautiful) Jose Gonzales tune, Hand on your Heart, (thanks again, Jay) and I perk up a little.

Is appreciation and knowledge of Japanese prints dying off?  Some days it feels that way.  Are there other 30 or 40-something Japanese print collectors out there?  Are you alone among your peers, or have you been able to turn any of your friends onto prints?  How do you regard Japanese in your life given that the world of conceptual art looms so largely in art magazines, interior design, contemporary art museums, and art fairs?  Are there other painters, printmakers, or video artists out there who find Japanese print inspiration creeping into your art?  If you're out there, I'd love to hear from you.


  1. RE: print collectors. I wouldn't say I'm a collector; I don't have the means to build a proper collection. But I have a few lovely little pieces sent to me by Japanese penpals, mainly plates salvaged from the piles of old books at thrift shops. I've also been somewhat lucky in discovering ex-library Japan Society editions from the '30s and '40s. I try to take inspiration from Japanese prints in my print design work; it may be cliché, but I love the clarity of some Japanese work. The amount of craft and skill it takes to make something so ornate seem simple appeals to me.

  2. Hi keeperdesign. I think I know those 30s, 40s Japan Soc. prints. Their mini-sized, right? Re: your prints. Are you encoporating parts of Japanese prints on the print with chine colle? (missing accent there, sorry) I always like to see what people are doing with inspiration from Japanese prints. Send me, or post a link to your work, if you like.

  3. Love the bunnies. Who's the artist?