Kiyoshi Saito with art critic Oliver Statler
“I scheme and work and sweat over my prints.
Making a woodcut is much too strenuous to let accidents determine results.”
Saito, a modern Japanese printmaker, was one of the foremost printmakers working in the genre of sosaku hanga, “the creative prints of one-man works” (Stearns Oxford).
Born in Aizu, Saito later lived on the outskirts of Tokyo, and traveled to the United States in the 1950’s. A self-taught artist, he cited Munch and Gauguin as influences, declaring, “From the moment I first saw their work…I’ve been attracted by their romanticism, their exoticism, and their mysticism. I feel that my own work interprets this same mysticism in today’s idiom’” (Statler 54).
The sosaku hanga (“creative prints”) movement in Japan was ushered in by Kanae Yamamoto’s print Fisherman.
All aspects of the printmaking process—drawing, carving and printing—were executed solely by the artist. Departing from traditional ukiyo-e, production which involved multiple participants—artist, carver, printer, and publisher—sosaku hanga prints are fundamentally “self-drawn (自画, jiga), self-carved (自刻, jikoku) and self-printed (自刷, jizuri)” (Stearns Oxford).
Kiyoshi Saito’s prints are even more dramatically individualist; in earlier works, he demonstrated his distinct methods—using a single block to make a color print, cutting his block freehand using the kiri, a Japanese carpenter’s tool, to “scratch or dig at the wood” (Statler 56). Later, Saito made use of multiple plywood blocks prepared with flat chisels (57). At times, he would use methods of lithography, painting directly onto a smooth, uncut block, usually printing upon kizuki hosho, strong, quality paper.
Described by Oliver Statler as a “modern realist,” Saito’ s distilled forms and “textural effects” were carefully executed. As he remarked, “I’m amused—and a little annoyed—by people who talk about some of my efforts as though they were happy accidents. These people seem to think we modern artists let our medium control us” (54).
Written and researched by Jessica Savitz
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Stearns, Peter N. "Art." The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern World. Oxford University Press, 2008. University of Chicago. 3 January 2010.
Statler, Oliver. Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1956.