HAMANISHI Kazunori (b. 1949) - mezzotint
During my last visit to his studio, I watched intently as Hamanishi finished printing one of his glorious prints. I had entered his atelier, adjacent to his home where his wife Tsuyako had first arranged for us to lunch on a banquet of seasonal delicacies, by navigating around his foot-pedal contraption, akin to that of an old sewing machine. Hamanishi carefully rolled back the wheel of the press. We stared at the perfectly printed image and grinned at each other. The velvety blackness of the background was sublime and I understood yet again his worldwide reputation as master of the mezzotint.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, provides this explanation of a mezzotint: “An intaglio printmaking technique that creates soft, velvety gradations of tone. The term comes from the Italian mezzotinto, meaning half tint. In this process, the entire surface of a metal printing plate is uniformly roughened using serrated tools called rockers to create tiny indentations that will hold ink. A tool called a burnisher is used to smooth over areas of the surface not intended to hold ink, creating an image or composition. When damp paper is placed on top of the inked plate and run through a press, the smoother, burnished sections result in light areas in the image, and the unburnished sections produce dark areas.” What this definition doesn’t reveal is the tedium of the process: "rocking" the copper plate back and forth to achieve the desired tones can take hours and that is why most mezzotints are small. Hamanishi patented a rocking tool that is connected to a foot pedal. It doesn’t make the process any less lengthy, but it affords him a way to prepare larger metal plates and therefore, unusually, a lot of his editions measure 21 x 28 inches
Hamanishi has created hundreds of editions over the course of his artistic career. When asked what inspires him, he smiles broadly and says, “ Since I have no imagination, once I knew I wanted to make prints, I decided to work with what I saw around me. In our backyard there were heaps of twigs, so I would construct something out of twigs and then try to make a print out of the assemblage." In early series Hamanishi tied rope around branches, conveying to an extraordinary degree the brittleness of the bark contrasted with the tension of the rope. He also worked through basic geometric shapes: the circle, triangle and square. Later series focused on the division of dark and light spaces on the sheet of paper. A series of scenery viewed through shoji windows was followed by a landscape series called "Silence" and the artist challenged himself by creating diptychs, triptychs, and even the occasional tetraptych. Currently he is working on exploring Japanese motifs -- the kimono, that uniquely Japanese garment, appears frequently.
Given his artistic skill, Hamanishi is in high demand as a teacher of mezzotint and has taught several times in the US where he has a devoted fan base. His charming personality and willingness to explain this difficult process appeal to the students, even those who confess that they will never be able to master it.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The British Museum, UK
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Art Institute of Chicago
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Legion of Honor, San Francisco
Cleveland Museum of Art
Minia University, Cairo, Egypt
Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Macedonia
National Museum of Art, Osaka
Hokkaido Museum of Art, Sapporo
Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Krakow National Museum, Poland
Ukraina Independent Center of Contemporary Art, Lvov
National Museum of Asian Art, Washington, DC
Jordan Schnitzer Museum, University of Oregon, Eugene
Newark Public Library, New Jersey