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Seeing a Song: The Dayton/Kyoto International Print Exchange Invitational

November 7, 2015

Every year or so, dozens of artistic prints—lithographs, etchings, woodblock, linoleum, drypoint, intaglio, and more—travel the 6,600 miles between Kyoto, Japan and Dayton Ohio, to be shared with new audiences. The Dayton/Kyoto International Print Exchange Invitational features over twenty printmakers at all stages in their creative careers, in an extraordinary exhibition.

Tomoko Sase, "Maitake," 2014, intaglio

Tomoko Sase, “Maitake,” 2014, intaglio

This print exchange began in 2003 through the initiative of artists Sherraid Scott with the Dayton Printmaker’s Cooperative (DPC), and Keiko Yuasa and Iwao Yamagen with Kyoto’s Gen Studio Group. Scott spent several years living in Japan, where she discovered her love of printmaking. When she settled in Yellow Springs, Scott began taking classes at Wright State University and joined the DPC. Her relationship with fellow Japanese printmakers found an expansive purpose in 2003 when the first Dayton/Kyoto International Print Exchange Invitational took place. “It allowed us to broaden our world view and to be seen by another culture,” said Scott.

Each exchange is a journey for many pieces of artwork, and on occasion, the printmakers will make the voyage as well. “You can see what they have been working on and perhaps learn a new technique or two,” said Scott. Kim Vito, a participant in the invitational since 2003, agreed. When Yamagen visited during one of the first exchanges, he offered a workshop at the DPC. “I was impressed by how he approached the process of using soft ground on a plate,” she said. “It was completely different. I never would have done it myself and was totally amazed by the different touch and aesthetic—and I now use his method.”

Kim Vito, "Poppy Garden," 2014, silkscreen

Kim Vito, “Poppy Garden,” 2014, silkscreen

Each invitational focuses on a theme, to which the printmakers must respond through a new print. Since 2003, eight themes have been explored between Kyoto and Dayton. In this exhibition’s theme “Song,” some artists interpreted the theme literally, including representations of “The Sound of Music,” jazz musicians, musical scores and songbirds; others interpret the theme abstractly, featuring blocks of color, patterns, and mark making. “Each year, one of the print co-ops select a theme, and then we all make prints that fit the theme. It’s a challenge to have a theme as well as size limitations and fun to see how each of us rise to the occasion,” wrote Scott.

Ray Must, "Tune from my Toolbox," detail, 2014, etching

Ray Must, “Tune from my Toolbox,” detail, 2014, etching

The themes can present a new challenge for the participating printmakers. In response to the theme challenge, Kyoto-based artist Kiyoko Naito wrote: “My painting tries to express the inner heart….The exchange exhibition gives me the excitement to instead challenge a theme.” For “Song,” Naito created abstract prints, including “Keyboard,” a block of yellow with black squares carefully arranged through the center of the composition. Like Naito, Vito also finds something new to create outside of her body of work. “I like the challenge of the theme. These are prints I would normally not do in my body of current work—this is an opportunity to venture and try something else,” she said. In her print “Poppy Garden,” Vito created a vibrant, multi-layered silkscreen, a technique she rarely uses. It is recognizable as a Vito print because the composition and the subject matter relates to the woodblock printing practice for which she is known. “Even though it’s different, your hand and your aesthetic come through,” she said.

For Scott, creating prints for the exchange is attractive for a variety of reasons. “I like the bright solid colors of the silk screen and the wood block, the intricate line of the intaglio and drypoint, the tactile feel of wood block carving and the charcoal like drawings that one can do on a litho stone,” she wrote. “I like mixing techniques and blending subjects, trying a theme in woodblock and then trying it in an etching.  I like the physicality of the different processes and the friendships of my fellow printmakers.”

Yuko Innami, "Songs II," 2015, intaglio

Yuko Innami, “Songs II,” 2015, intaglio

In Tomoko Sase’s colorful print “Maitake,” tiny nuns run through a forest of cloud-shaped trees, rabbits and flowers. Maitake translates as “dancing mushroom” a unique perspective on the theme. Using an etching process to create the image, Sase hand-painted each print, creating a rich palette of blues, reds and greens.

The relationships forged through the Dayton/Kyoto International Print Exchange Invitational continue to grow as new printmakers participate and exhibitions take place throughout Dayton and Kyoto. A shared goal and discovering the commonalties and differences in ideas, representation and techniques make the exchange an incredibly valuable endeavor. “I don’t really see the Japanese or American aspect of the prints, but others do,” wrote Scott. “I am told by Japanese that my prints are very American and by Dayton friends that my prints seem Japanese.”

The next exchange “Storm,” will be on view in 2016 at the Springfield Museum of Art and the Kyoto Hakubutsu-Kan Museum. In the meantime, Scott will return to Kyoto to connect with current and past participants. Her dream is to bring another studio of Japanese printmakers into this exchange. “Working in the two different studios is quite a contrast,” she wrote. “We here in Dayton have so much more space, more techniques available to us and less formal instruction.  The Gen Studio is in Iwao Yamagen’s home and is very tiny with one press.”

SONG is on view at the Dayton Visual Arts Center through November 28, 2015. The exhibition will include a Gallery Talk and Print Sale on November 6, from 5 – 8 pm. The Dayton Visual Arts Center is located at 118 North Jefferson Street, Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton Printmakers Cooperative will also host a print sale on Saturday, December 5th at their studios at 913 N. Keowee St., Dayton. Learn more about both organizations at thedaytonprintmakers.com or at http://www.daytonvisualarts.org.

This article was originally published on November 3, 2015 in the Dayton City Paper.

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