AKI Mana - 安芸 真奈 (b. 1960)
As a second-generation dealer, one of my advantages is that I have known many of the artists I represent for decades. They have seen my orthodontic braces come on and then go off, have wished me well at college, and heralded my beginnings as a gallerist in New York years ago.
Of course, we occasionally add new artists to the roster. Aki-san is one such printmaker. I am always excited to represent another female artist. In Japan, like all over the world, women are expected to keep the house, raise the children, and look after aging parents, and their artistic practice often takes a distant second place.
Born in 1960 in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Aki didn’t venture far from home for university, choosing to study locally. Her plans were to become a high school art teacher. Long inspired by the woodblocks of ISOMI Teruo, when she learned that he would be teaching a class in Tokyo, she traveled to the metropolis to study with him. After completing the course, she chose to return to the rural environment of Kochi and has dedicated herself to promoting one of the local handicrafts by using the local handmade paper, Tosa washi.
Tosa washi is characterized not only by its quality but by the variety of different types of paper made. While some washi makers produce only calligraphy paper or translucent paper for shoji sliding doors, Tosa washi is manufactured in roughly 300 variations. It’s highly valued for its thin, yet durable nature, which has led to it being known as kagero no hane, or dragonfly wing. It is the world’s thinnest hand-made paper. These properties have been realized through the time-honed techniques of the craftspeople who so skillfully intertwine the long, thick fibers of the kozo plant. The paper’s thinness and durability open up a broad range of uses, including restoring ancient works of cultural heritage.
Her paper’s delicacy contrasts with the bold energy of her lines. Aki stresses that the quantity of black sumi ink applied to the woodblock is a key component of her work. She will add a lot of sumi, then blot it off so that the dark black ink appears to be seeping through the thin paper.
Ino-Cho Paper Museum, Japan
Kurobe City Museum, Japan
Centre of Japanese Art and Technology MANGGHA, Poland
The Tikotin Museum, Israel