When not running the Toshidama Gallery, director Alex Faulkner also works as an artist, currently developing innovative techniques in monotype printing. In November 2018 Faulkner was greatly honoured to have one of his recent monotypes (not shown here) acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London for their permanent collection. His work is inevitably influenced by Japanese woodblock prints for which he has a lifelong passion and knowledge. The monotypes in this post are from an ongoing print series that began with a fascination for the famous ukiyo-e series, New Forms for the 36 Ghosts by Meiji artist Yoshitoshi.
Alex Faulkner writes: “Yoshitoshi is renowned for his ferocity… the violence of his imagery, but I think I find him most interesting when he is reserved, which he is a great deal in some prints from this series. A favourite is the print of Omori Hikoshichi… we see the hapless Hikoshichi carrying a woman over a river. She is in fact a demon, only visible in the subtlest depiction of horns, reflected in the water at the base of the print. Water, mirrors, reflective surfaces – these were how the Japanese saw into the world of ghosts and demons.”
As in some of the Yoshitoshi series, the presence of otherness is never centre stage, or if it is, as in print No 6 from Faulkner’s series, at the top of the page here, the nature of the malfeance is obscure. Faulkner says:
“There’s a contemporary sense of anxiety to them I think… but not a specific agenda. In my mind the imagery in No 11 for example, recalls the Japanese folk story of the house on Adachi Moor… a place of utmost despair and of murder and persecution… that print of course itself, speaks of a wider anxiety. I think there’s an echo also of say Yoshitoshi’s interest in Jigoku, sometimes called the Hell Courtesan. She is always pictured with skeletons and parts of skeletons but this is also a story of despair… of ennui rather than horror.”
“These are not woodblock prints but I’m aware that they share a lot of the same poverty of process. They are produced without any specialist print equipment – no presses or plates and so on. They are simple and handmade, a little smaller than chuban at 16cm x 22cm but the same proportion. As a series they have a narrative that shifts depending on the order you put them in, some are barely realistic… they suggest a time and place, but others are very readable – even despite a distinct lack of conventional drawing.”
“You can spend decades blinded by modernism and post-modernism and cool… when things start to fall apart, when things shift, you return to narrative – stories – telling tales.”