Indigenous seasons reflected in traditional Japanese printmaking 

CDU master printmaker Jacqueline Gribbin will travel to Japan this week after being invited to take up an artist residence

A Charles Darwin University master printmaker will travel to Japan this week to explore traditional woodblock printmaking techniques dating back hundreds of years.

CDU Northern Editions workshop manager Jacqueline Gribbin is one of four artists invited to take up an artist residence in the breathtaking surrounds of Lake Kawaguchi, one of the five lakes with views of the iconic Mount Fuji.

Ms Gribbin, who was originally inspired to train as a printmaker while teaching English in Japan in the late ’90s said the technique of woodblock printmaking, known as “mokuhanga”, was a natural form of printmaking.

“You don’t need a press or chemicals, and the paints are watercolours or natural pigments,” she said. “The wooden block is traditionally cherrywood, but you can also use pine.”

Ms Gribbin was invited to attend the five-week residency after she gave a presentation at the inaugural Mokuhanga Conference last year in Japan, based on her work with Indigenous printmakers on Tiwi Islands in 2010.

Her mokuhanga workshop on the Tiwi Islands culminated in an exhibition of 37 distinctive prints, which were unlike anything produced on the Tiwi Islands or in mokuhanga.

During the residency in Japan, she will build on her mokuhanga techniques, learning advanced cutting and printing, as well as specialist paper preparation and book binding.

As part of her trip, Ms Gribbin will exhibit some of her current mokuhanga works in Tokyo.

“I’m interested at the moment in the different seasons and the changing environment, which feature prominently in both Japanese and Indigenous cultures,” she said.

Moving out to the rural area of Darwin last year, Ms Gribbin said she had also become more entwined with the seasonal changes, which inspired her latest works.

“My current prints are based on the die back of vegetation at the beginning of what we know as the ‘Dry Season’,” she said. “Eventually this series will grow to include prints based on all six seasons recognised by Indigenous cultures in Arnhem Land and other parts of the Top End.”

The Mokuhanga Innovate Laboratory opened in 2011 to promote non-toxic water based woodblock printmaking (mokuhanga) outside Japan, and to provide opportunities to create new forms of expression and the technique of mokuhanga at Lake Kawaguchi studio and residence space for international artists and printmaking teachers. Ms Gribbin’s artistic residence in Japan is supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, and endorsed by the Australian Embassy in Japan.