Sunday, 17 July 2016
Kazuyuki Ohtsu, a cherry tree at full moon
There is just one aspect of Kazuyuki Ohtsu's career as a maker of woodblocks that everyone mentions and it is the long-standing working relationship with Kiyoshi Saito. Ohtsu went to Tokyo at the age of eighteen or nineteen and studied at the Umehara Hanga Studio in Tokyo between 1954 and 1958 and then for the next forty years worked for Saito, an extraordinary enterprise, which I have no information about.
Saito died in 1997 and Ohtsu himself is now eighty-one. It hasn't stopped him making prints of the greatest refinement. Kyoto, Ryoanji stone garden (at the top) was published only this year and all the prints you see here were made over the past ten years or so. Cherry tree at full moon, the woodblock that suggested the title for this post about him, was published only in 2012 and provides the best example of what Japanese artists can do so well. There is no sense here that anything has passed him by, the complexities are handled with unaffected ease, as well they might be, after making prints alongside another artist for so long. But then, this is what his own art is about.
I like some of his prints more than others and have tried to show one or two I might not have chosen. Grey is a perennial in Japan and not just a fashion as it has been in the West, and many of his prints are surprisingly bold. In Hakone from 2006 (above) is something of a halfway house. Even so, it is the understated ones I like most. But they all remind me of a line from the British poet, Edward Thomas, 'and what was hid shall still be hid'. To be hidden behind another artist as long as he was is unusual but looking at the half-enclosed world of In Hakone, I have to conclude it suited his purpose. But then, I think these images speak for themselves. The Japanese are very good at putting you in their shoes and then quietly leaving you alone.