Monday, December 26, 2016

Woodblock Print Exhibition 2016

A woodblock print exhibition entitled "인쇄문화의 고판화 II" or in English "The Blossom of Print Culture Ancient Asian Woodblock Prints" was put on by Taegyo Order monk Han Sun-hak, owner and curator of a private 4,300 woodblock and woodblock print collection operating from his Gopanhwa Woodblock Museum. Director Han put on the exhibition and then hosted guided tours. My friend and I were very privileged to be among a small group of woodcarving enthusiasts as he guided us through his exhibition a week after the exhibition had officially closed, giving us running commentary on the key woodblocks and prints on display and how their printing process was achieved. Absolutely fascinating!

"Ferocious Tiger in the Forest", Late Qing Dynasty
47.5W x 47 L x 2.5H cm (woodblocks, not the print)
This woodblock print is the "face" woodblock of the exhibition. Actually I should say 'woodblocks' as the print made by Director Han was done with seven individual woodblocks for imprinting with four different colors: black, red, green and yellow. The woodprint is 47.5 x 94 cm, so finding woodblocks that size would have been tough. Therefore, the using of two woodblocks to print one color. 
Woodblocks and woodblock prints in this exhibition were from Korea, China, Japan, Tibet and Mongolia.

"Illustration of the God of Longevity", Ming Dynasty 1572
97W x 213L cm

"Woodblock of the Bodhisattva of Power",  Qing Dynasty 1812
51W x 50.4L x 3H cm (the woodblock)
One of the most impressive artistic pieces to me - This phenomenal woodblock was carved on both sides, and each side was for imprinting a half of the bodhisattva. Director Han points to the woodblock as he explains the care and precision in not only carving it but in aligning the carved lines to get as seamless an image as possible. Image printed by Director Han.

"The Ten Traditional Symbols of Longevity, Woodblock Print", Late Joseon Dynasty
99W x 56.2L cm
I have a huge fascination with the 십장생, the 10 symbols of longevity, and the word was one of my first Korean words. Some of my students of very long ago and I were hiking in Daejeon and we came across a fantastic picture of the 십장생 where two large trails met, and I remember being almost entranced by the colorful imagery. My students taught me the word describing what I was seeing, and the images of natural beauty still snare my attention.
"Woodblock of Tigers and Magpies", 20th century
30W x 88L x 2.7H cm (x4 woodblocks)
The screen was printed by Director Han from four separate blocks with carving on both sides.
Another "Woodblock of Tigers and Magpies", 20th century (scarlet colored)
29W x 86L x 2.7H cm, almost identical to the woodblocks used for printing the above screen
"Woodblock Print of the Beautiful Woman in the Qing Dynasty", Mid-Qing Dynasty
48.5W x 95L cm
To create this delicate print, each color had to be individually aligned and imprinted.

"Woodblock of the Lotus Sutra Illustration", Joseon Dynasty 17th century
29W x 17.5L x 3.5H cm
I need to learn the reason and value of the wood braces gripping both sides of the woodblock.
"Board with Letter Paper", Late Joseon Dynasty
21.3W x 12.5L x 2H cm
Woodblocks were used for imprinting letter paper, and a letter paper style in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty was to carve a picture with vertical lines as if creating the concept of bamboo behind the image. Very stylistic of the time.

So many woodblocks and prints on display. Of particular interest, but not pictured, were the very ancient (16th century?) Japanese folding screens with graduated blue imprinting (still vibrantly colored, must be indigo) and which needed many woodblocks for the creation of just one picture! Mandalas from Tibet and Mongolia were so carefully and minutely carved. And a woodblock on the five moral rules with illustrations; at some point in time the woodblock was deemed useless as books with that content had already been printed so the woodblocks had been cut down and formed into a trashbin box! Amazing rich history told through these woodblocks ... I must study Korean to unlock some of these secrets!

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