The woodblock print bookpage used in this work is from an elementary school science textbook published by Shuei-do in 1891. Since, unlike Roman alphabet, there are myriads of characters in Japanese, back then, it was still reasonable to create woodblock prints for bookpages rather than using a letter press or other printing methods. Books were made out of handmade prints.
Someone more than 100 years ago actually carved out all the detailed design of the writing, borders and the illustration on a piece of wood. The unknown carver carefully mimicking original ink brush strokes on each letter as well as hair-thin lines in illustrations. It is not unusual to find woodblock print lines as detailed as 5 lines in a mere 0.08 inch (0.2mm) width. It was the carvers’ pride to show off their skill in their creation, even in an elementary school textbook.
This body of work is about encounter and collaboration, between the unknown carver and me, between the subject matter of the bookpage and the carver, and between the subject matter of the bookpage and subject matter of my work.
One rule I assigned to myself to create this work was, “do not paint over the anonymous carver’s line” my way of showing respect to them, the unknown carver.