Against a dark blue backdrop, the Autumn Rain falls on the yellow Ginko leaves. In the upper right, a series of vertically written Japanese characters spells out an accompanying Haiku poem.
Ginko Under Autumn Rain (2023)

Ginkgo Under Autumn Rain, with Featured Poem by Natsume Sôseki

In bygone Japan it was not uncommon for privately commissioned woodblock prints, known as surimono (摺物), to incorporate poetry. The one here is by the acclaimed writer Natsume Sôseki (夏目 漱石 1867-1916) whose works are considered to have an enduring influence on Japanese literature in the modern era. Here he writes of the colour blue, how it sets in with Autumn, not unlike  the dying of woven pattern fabric;

Autumn begins,
The deep blue settles —
Iyo kasuri

Around this time is when the Autumn rain appears (Akisame 秋雨). In woodblock printing the indication of rain was no easy feat, and placed particular demand on the carver tasked with etching countless parallel streams. As the season takes hold, the leaves of the indigenous ginkgo tree turn from green to golden yellow.

Tradition in the Making

As with Western wood engraving, woodblock printing was the accepted technology of its day. And similarly it required the collective intentionality among the contributors: artist 浮世絵師, carver 刀師, printer 摺師, and a publisher 版元. In the case of surimono, a poet might also be sought out by the commissioner. Printing this way has long been surpassed by photomechanical engraving and lithography. Nonetheless, it is a tradition that has been preserved remarkably well.

Ginko Under Autumn Rain is part of an ongoing exploration of eastern visual culture. Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print comes framed. Drop an email if interested.

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