Against a saphron yellow backdrop, green ferns grow amid five white hellebore blossoms. To the left of the image, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Ferns and Hellebores (2024)

Ferns and Hellebores, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Among Japan’s traditional woodblock prints, the customary inclusion of nature became one of their recognisable hallmarks. Depictions of landscapes, coastlines, plant life and flowers beautified the hand-crafted prints, and lent themselves to being hung on the walls of people’s homes. 

Japan‘s woodblock printing enabled mass production of Ukiyo-e; pictures of the pleasure districts of Edo. The heyday of this workshop printing approach has long past (17–19c.), mainly due to the arrival of western printing technology. Nonetheless, the woodblock tradition was preserved by the latter Shin-hanga movement (early 20c.). Many of the subjects seen in Ukiyo-e were revisited, and as before there was an unmissable connection with nature. Where they differed was the incorporation of Western techniques, such as realism in lighting, the absence of contour lines, and the eschewal of large areas of flat colour. 

Unlike the local market for Ukiyo-e prints, Shin-hanga were exported to satisfy western demand. This would likely have continued, were it not for the the Second World War. There was only a marginal post-war revival of Shin-hanga, with some renewed interest in the genre since the early 21c.

The Haikus of Shiki

Masaoka Shiki was a poet of the Meiji era and is considered among the great masters of Haiku. After moving to Tokyo he worked with Nippon Newspaper and edited a Haiku magazine called Hototogisu (Cuckoo). He particularly favoured realistic observations of nature, and advocated for innovations that would revitalise the writing of haiku. His efforts likely helped ensure the genre’s continuation while Japanese society was being exposed to western artistic culture.

Ferns and Hellebores (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is by Shiki:


In the small garden,
ferns have grown
among the plants.

Screen printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this limited edition art-print has been made by the artist’s hand. The square format is equal to a 12 inch record sleeve, and can be easily framed. Available to order via the online shop.

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