We are off on a day trip to Kyoto and tonight is our last night in Osaka. Although it is 56 kilometres in distance, it's only 10 minutes via train, from Osaka to Kyoto, if we take the Shinkansen (bullet train). We will have a few hours to wonder around in daylight and after dark at around 5pm we will go to see a light show in the bamboo forest.
Tim got back here very late last night from a few days in Toyama where he visited a glass museum and studio. He had a great time; two glassblowing friends of his from the Chech Republic happened to be there giving a glass blowing demonstration. Tim said it was a world class studio - a huge space with amazing facilities. And they all got taken out to dinner by the professors of the Toyama glass institute.



Meanwhile I've just completed a week of working in a wonderful print studio in Osaka, which has been another fantastic experience and I've met some amazing people - very talented and passionate printmakers. Atelier Outotsu has been running for 43 years and was founded by Ritsuwo Kaoru.  Both Ritsuwo and his wife are artists and run the studio together. 

Ritsuwo sitting to the left of me

Ritsuwo showed me his artwork yesterday, his prints are like nothing I've seen before. Perhaps the closest prints I could compare his work to might be Howard Hodgkin's carborundums but this is mostly due to their scale and the fact that the single print has been created over several sheets of paper and that they are abstract. Ritsuwo's etchings are like canvas paintings with gestural impasto painterly marks.
Made over six separate sheets of paper, he prints onto very thin Japanese paper called Gampi pepper which he glues to a thick strong paper using a technique called Urauchi (like chin-colle).  He does this over 6 separate papers and has mounted them onto a board so then end up looking like a canvas painting, measuring about 2m x 1m roughly. He told me his prints are in fact a photoetching. He created a small drawing they blew it up so that the mark making and grain of what ever material he used to create the drawing became magnified in his print.
I've see a lot of etchings and Mokuhanger prints in Japan that have been mounted onto board and then framed with no glass. I find this really inspiring and its great to see a work on paper look like a canvas painting because they feel more like an object . When I return to London I'm going to see if I can track down a framer who mounts works on paper onto board and frames but with no glass using Japanese techniques. Ritsuwo said he could teach me how to do this (next time perhaps...) He told me he was taught at university the correct technique of how to mount Japanese painting on paper in the same way as pictured below and he used the same process and applied it to his etching prints.


Ritsuwo has a major exhibition in Paris in May 2018 and will be shipping these large works.  I was impressed to see the wooden crates they will travel in. I've promised Ritsuwo that I'll visit the show - it will be a good opportunity to keep in touch.  I saw all this amazing work in his studio just propped up against the walls, and it would be wonderful to see his work in a gallery setting.
The studio is in what looks to me like a block of flats, and throughout the week I was taken to new areas on other floors within the building - it seems he owns half the block! As the artist in residence I had a room and etching press all to myself which was great but it meant I wasn't around the other artists working in the studio. Working alongside other members of the print workshop was the most important reason for coming. A studio to myself is a dream come true but I really wanted to watch how other people work - that's how you learn. 

On my first day, since I didn't want to isolate myself, I decided to set myself up in the classroom as there were other people working in the space. I met Keiko who used to teach English in secondary school before she retired and took a degree in printmaking. She told me that whilst she was studying, the print studio of her university closed for renovations. Unable to do any printmaking she met Ritsuwo and has been a member of Outosu for the past ten years. Keiko was so lovely and welcoming; she makes Mokuhanga plus etchings, and prints them together. So I was intrigued to see how she combined the two techniques in one print.

I spent much of the first day looking over images I'd taken throughout this trip, making sketches and planning what to make.
I started sketching from some images of the buildings by Tadao Ando at Naoshima and then after drawing for a few hours, I ditched the idea of making a print based on such simple clean lines and shapes.  This is a project I need to save for next year as it will need a lot of development time.
On the top floor of the building was an aqua tint room, and on the roof top, exposed to the sky and views of mountains and the city of Osaka, were the acid baths to etch plates in. There were three rooms with etching presses and work benches (one of the rooms I had to myself) and then there was a classroom. Most days there were lessons scheduled for either the morning or afternoon in classes such as painting, drawing, etching, and on Thursday mornings a teacher comes in to give a class in Mokuhanga, one of which I managed to join.

It was great to be around the other artists participating in the class. They are all practising artists who get on with their work whilst the teacher comes round to give advice and direction for whatever they are working on. Everyone brought food to share in the class such as fruit picked from their garden, and cake, and we all drank green tea. I was sorry to have come empty handed.
The course at Mi-lab provided us with tools to create Mokuhanga prints, and we were able to keep the carving knives, papers, barrens, paints etc. at the end of the course. The teacher and students were really impressed with the quality of these tools. I felt somewhat embarrassed at being the beginner in the room, with very expensive, high quality equipment but I'm also pleased to know the equipment Mi-lab gave us is so good; it's made my time spent at Mi-lab even better value. Having not only learnt the new technique I now have tools to last me for a very long time. I am so excited for 2018 (it's now seems very close!) and the artwork Im yet to make. In terms of ideas and subject matter I have so much new material to work with as well as the tools and techniques I will be taking home with me.


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