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KAWAMURA Sayaka - 川村 紗耶佳
woodblock on Japanese paper

I started handling Kawamura Sayaka (b.1990) late last year, so I was eager to meet my newest artist, curious to see if my expectations would be fulfilled. Since I live in New York and most of my artists live in Japan, I take particular pleasure when I return to Tokyo to schedule appointments to meet with the people whose work I sell.  It’s always interesting to find out what they are working on, what books they are reading or even to just catch up!

Attempts to meet Sayaka on previous trips hadn’t worked out due to her busy schedule.  She teaches five days a week at Tama Art University, one of Japan’s most prestigious art schools, and spends nights at home sketching or carving the blocks for her prints. Weekends are devoted to printing. She is not tall, and is quite delicate in her bearing, which makes the fact that many of her prints are oversized (39 x 39 inches) all the more surprising.

Her work is inspired by the stories told to her by her family who live in Hokkaido.  Her father is from the port city of Otaru, and much of her imagery features boats –- a nod to her ancestors. She prints on kozo paper from Tosa (current day Kochi in Shikoku), and she has asked the papermakers to make the sheets thicker than the norm so that she can work on a large scale without worrying about damaging the paper when she handles it.  She lays the sheet of paper down on her worktable, and because the image Is so large, she has to move around the table to print evenly with the baren. If she were to lean far over the table to print a specific area, she would not be able to apply pressure uniformly.

We went through the woodblocks at the Tokyo gallery and she described her pleasure in selecting colors that harmonized well, and also her delight in creating texture. She favors watercolor ink for the soft color palette for which she is known. I was thrilled to be able to pepper her with any and all questions that popped into my head, like, “You are petite. Why are the women in your prints so voluminous?”  Opening her arms wide, Sayaka grinned and told me, “I want to embrace the world.  I like the fact that these women take up a lot of space.”

Historically, ukiyo-e are characterized by strong designs, and unshaded, flat colors. The genre typically focusses on a single subject; the purposeful linework and colors emphasize the image.  Since Sayaka believes that people are attracted to her work because it contains the DNA of Ukiyo-e, she was thrilled to hear that two of her pieces are currently on view at the James Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA. James Michener was a collector of both ukiyo-e and modern prints and the current exhibition Mid-Century to Manga: The Modern Japanese Print in America, on until July 30, 2023 is an overview of this print style.

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