IMAMURA Yoshio (b. 1948) - etching and chine collé 

My atelier is a four-hour drive from Tokyo. Nestled in the magnificent Japanese Alps, far away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, I create work inspired by the changing seasons.

 

In spring, the wild mountain plants bring forth new shoots, which compete to bud the most exuberantly. In summer, the plants and the animals fully enjoy the bounties of the season, while awaiting the rich harvests of autumn. With the turning of the season, the wind that withers the trees shrouds the wild mountains in a veil of white. Watching these continual shifts in the cycle of life, one is reminded of the fragility of humanity.

 

All living things must die, all animate objects must decay. Even the grand and impassive mountains, living testimony to the scale of earth’s history, continue to evolve dynamically. In my work, I strive to record the memory of these shifts, the time of these evolutions, onto my copper plates and to impress them on paper.

 

When man looks nature in the face, he becomes aware of the shallowness and insignificance of his own knowledge. Wildflowers in bloom have driven innumerable artists and sculptors to try to capture their elusive loveliness. The crumbling houses in Japan’s old villages, caught in the ebbing flow of time, provide beautiful colours and textures. When I walk through the wild mountains, they provide me with images for my work.

 

In my twenties, I made works that were influenced by American contemporary art. But I always had the suspicion that my work was not firmly grounded in my own identity. I suffered a breakdown and lost my passion for creating art. In the midst of this, I saw a magazine feature on modern printmaking, and was particularly impressed by the works of Nakabayashi Tadayoshi, a professor at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts. I sent him a passionate letter and received a warm and encouraging reply. To this day he remains a respected mentor. In later years, it was through his recommendation that I received a grant from the Cultural Affairs Agency to study in Paris.

 

Since the Meiji period, Japanese art has generally prized imitations of the West. Art critics in particular, have only seen work in the Western tradition as worthy of review. They have forgotten that the ukiyo-e that flourished in the Edo period had a profound influence on Western art. It is indeed a paradox that contemporary Japanese art is overshadowed by the post-Impressionist tradition, when in fact it was Japanese art that influenced the development of Impressionism.

 

Even if there is a revival in Japanese art, should this be done by superficially promoting Japanese elements and expressions? To me, it’s not about showing a shallow sense of Japanese-ness, but by allowing a natural understanding of what it is like to be Japanese to develop naturally. That is why my heart is drawn to the Rinpa movement, the aesthetic tradition of the long -ago Edo period.

During the war, my family evacuated to the mountains where my mother was born. I was born in a humble dwelling, in the midst of poverty. When I was a child, I resented the fact that we were so poor, but now, as one who lives from his art, I realize that I was fortunate. Living in the valley was like being at the bottom of a bowl. Near our little house there were fields and forests, and a little stream meandered by. The sun only showed its face for a few hours each day, and sank quickly in the evening. In the day, the forests and the stream were my only playground. At night, looking at the sky from the bottom of the bowl was like being in a massive planetarium, which sparked my interest in astronomy. And so, my childhood play times in the desolate mountains have left their mark on my heart, and these images appear in my work.

 

Thinking about my own work, I have come to realize that the circumstances in which I was born have been a driving factor in my art.

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The Tolman Collection of New York

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