TAKAHASHI Hiromitsu (b. 1959) - kappazuri stencil

It seems that the trend these days is for people to look to the future, to the next new thing. We see this in the world of contemporary Japanese prints as well, where young artists are eager to experiment with the newest techniques at their disposal.

TAKAHASHI Hiromitsu (or Hiromitsu as he signs his work) has chosen the opposite path. He grew up in Tokyo, in a family steeped in traditional Japanese art. Both of his parents were full time artists-- they were print-makers and his mother was also a textile artist and weaver.  Hiromitsu was especially close to his mother and has fond memories of going to see Kabuki plays with her during his boyhood. He is the only person I know who can readily keep track and explain all of the stories of the classical dramas. Often, when he has completed a new print, he will come by our Tokyo gallery, ready to field our questions about the characters who populate his work.  I am always struck by the contrast of his bold, colorful prints with his reserved demeanor, punctuated with his frequent gentle smiles.

“I never set out to be an artist, you know,” he told me one day. “I graduated from Nihon University with an undergraduate degree in law and worked for a while as a salesman for Sanrio, but I didn’t feel at home in the business world. I realized that I really wanted to make art. When my parents were printing for MORI Yoshitoshi, I learned about kappazuri (stencil printing) and I wanted to keep that tradition going. The only people I knew of who were printing in that style were old.  I am determined to keep kappazuri alive."

And so he has, pretty much single handedly, worked in the stencil technique for almost 40 years. His editions are small and his subject matter is almost exclusively inspired by Japanese theater and history.

Others may be looking ahead but Hiromitsu-san wants to preserve the past.

Collections:

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Cincinnati Art Museum, USA
Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg, Germany
Gallery of New South Wales, Australia
Rockefeller Foundation
Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Israel
New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington
Victoria Arts Center Trust, Melbourne
Singapore National Museum
Hameenlinna Art Museum, Finland
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
Portland Art Museum, USA
The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. USA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA

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The Tolman Collection of New York

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