January 4~12, 1999
Tenth Annual 'Hyaku-Nin Isshu
Woodblock Series' Exhibition
(Gallery Shinjuku Takano, Tokyo)
With this 'final' exhibition, the ten-year long 'Hyakunin Isshu Hanga Series' project came to an end on the 12th of January. All one hundred prints were of course on display (but I couldn't get them all into this picture!)
They were up on the wall in chronological order of my making them, from oldest up at the top right, down to the newest at the very bottom left. We could all see very clearly the development of my printmaking skills over the ten years, as the early prints are quite crudely carved and printed compared to the newer ones. But having 'crude' prints on the wall didn't seem to bother anyone; they enjoyed being able to see the change in my abilities.
Hanging in the entranceway were some calligraphy scrolls done by Mrs. Kubota, a local calligraphy teacher. (The two on the left are the title of the exhibition, and the one on the right is a new year greeting.)
The exhibition was very well attended this year, perhaps due to the wonderful coverage I received from the media, and in fact except for a couple of minutes before closing time on the Sunday evening, the room was never empty of visitors during the entire nine days.
In addition to the display of the entire 100 prints, the most recent 10 were up on the wall together with the 'essays' that accompanied them when they were sent out to the collectors during the past year. Displaying prints in frames isn't my favourite way to show them, but doing it like this gives the visitors an excellent opportunity to get the 'feel' of what it was like to be a collector of the series. It usually takes the average visitor about 30 minutes to make their way down the row of ten prints, and by the time they get to the end, they have a nice understanding of what I have been trying to do.
One corner of the far end of the room was curtained off, to provide a darker space in which to show people how to properly look at prints - under a soft horizontal light. In here were a couple of copies of one of my new Surimono prints, and I very much enjoyed watching people enter the curtain and then gasp out loud - "Ohh!"
It's difficult to show you in this snapshot, but the prints looked fabulous under the light falling from the shoji screen. Next year, for the first exhibition of my 'Surimono Albums', I'm doing the entire gallery this way; there will be no general room lighting at all, no prints in frames on the wall, and no bright spotlights.
And was the exhibition successful? Yes - beyond my wildest imagination. The Surimono Albums received quite a number of advance orders, and many people wanted to obtain sets of the Hyakunin Isshu prints. It seems that my living as a printmaker will now be assured for another year at least.
But only if I get busy and make some more prints!