petite mort In this issueLa Premiére No.1 2003
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Printing with a paintbrush, the possible gastrointestinal effects of abstract-amorphic paintings, the various species of ghosts, almost edible Japanese paper... These are some of the topics artist Eric Fertman and Takuji Hamanaka chat casually about in his seriously green Greenpoint Studio.

 

 

takuji's painting   takuji's painting

 

 

"Back then it was really uncool to tell my freinds that I like old Japanese prints, they would've thought I was kind of freaky."

 

 

Takuji's printmaking classes
Center for the Book Art, NY
1 week classes:
April 12-16, 2004
August 16-20, 2004
www.centerforbookarts.org

Manhattan Graphic Center, NY
1 week classes for all of February and March
(total of 8 classes)
www.geocities.com/manhattangraphicscenter

Dublin Art Council, OH
4 day class scheduled for February 2004
www.dublinarts.org

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, MD
3 day class in May 2004
www.pyramidatlanticartcenter.org

 

 

takuji and greenleft: with shrubs head high, takuji studies the harmony of the plants around him. right: making use of all surfaces for painting tools.

Instead of going to art school, you became an apprentice to a traditional Japanese wood block printer, what was that like?
It was a very precious experience to me. I did not find it necessary to go to art school, I did not like the idea of going to school to study art. I thought it should be studied outside the institutional system. I wanted to be a unique and independent artist then. That's one of the reasons I did my apprenticeship. Now I wish I had some degree in art, preferably a masters, since, you know, people sometimes call me a master printer.

It was good to see and work with the most skilled artisan in the woodblock printmaking world. It sort of set my standard of woodblock printing, which is very high. Though since I came to the States my standard has significantly declined due to my laziness. People at the shop were a very old school type of artisan, they drink, gamble and do printing with machine-like precision everyday. Every Saturday they would listen to horse racing on the radio because they bid on horses. They usually lost but they kept doing it. Since everybody did it, I felt like I needed to do it myself, and one time I won about $500 and bought a set of expensive books.

Takuji Hamanaka studio
Prints (left) and paintings (right) in progress.

When I was working there, people seemed to like to have me there, mostly because no young people usually show any interest in old Japanese prints. The average age then was around 40 and I was 18 when I started. It was really un-cool to say that I liked old Japanese prints to my friends back then, they thought I was some kind of freak. People at the shop had great skill but the public did not care, it is one of those dying traditions. Though these days they have a couple of female printers which was impossible to think of when I was there. Some of them are quite good, better than some guys. I still respect those artisans at the shop I worked at but I wish they would change one thing that they had been doing: sitting on the floor while they print! Because of that practice all the printers have bad backs and badly bowed legs like mine.

Has your mastery of wood block printing influenced your painting?
I think so. It seems even my way of making paintings has some similarities to the way woodblocks are made. I tend to think of an image by layer by layer, section by section so it's not painterly really. Also my color application is greatly influenced by the training I had at the print shop. I think I should quit painting and maybe just make prints.

Takuji's studio

Why do you only paint on paper?
I like paper! Have you seen really good Japanese papers? They look almost edible. Actually when I worked at a print shop in Brooklyn there was a time they could not pay me, instead they gave me two large rolls of paper worth about $800. So I kept painting on paper.

the interview continues >