During the first day of scheduled ‘Projects and Demonstrations’ at SGCI, myself and artist Sarah Jane Lawton, based at East London Printmakers, presented our collaborative print project ‘Movement & Gestures’.
Our printmaking intervention presented an opportunity for participants to make and contribute to an evolving printed scroll. The event intended to confront one person with another, connecting individuals without the use of verbal language but simply through woodblock, indigo and paper. This project explores change, impermanence, flux, vulnerability, collaboration and process, with an intention to record the transient moments of shifting experience through printmaking. By inviting observers to become participants in an immersive experience, our hope was to explore and develop a ‘language of gestures’ through a continually changing and ever- growing print.
The choreography of traced movements, mannerisms and sounds contributed to this developing vocabulary of printable marks; a way of connecting observer to participator. Sarah and I have both been developing print tool-kits, independently, through the cultural exchange process, in India and Japan, respectively. This has been underpinned by an experiential methodology, which facilitates growth through ‘making’ and creates cross- cultural dialogues. Sarah has been working to document the gesture and engagement of artisans in Gujarat, North West India and most recently with the dancers of Odisha. I have been exploring Mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printmaking) as a connective process.
Throughout the day, we invited conference visitors to select a tool (carved Indian or Japanese woodblock), ink up with indigo pigment and make a printed contribution to the scrolls. It was a wonderful experience to create a space in which people could collaborate in gestural marks with one another. We had a steady stream of contributions over the day, each print pass informing and shaping the next.
Each of the woodblocks I had created formed part of a larger collection of gestures, originally made in Japan in the Spring of 2015. As a response to learning the hiragana sounds of the Japanese language, I developed a series of 20 symbols or pictograms from certain hiragana characters to create my own personal kanji. These ‘kanji’ formed my own visual dictionary of words I felt necessary to embed in my memory, as a means to express my thoughts about living in Japan.
The 20 hand stamped drawings were exhibited for the first time at the IMPACT printmaking conference in Hangzhou, China in October 2015 where Sarah and I launched the ‘Language of Gestures’ project at Sanshang Gallery.