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The 2001 Album


I was chatting with one of the attendees to my recent annual exhibition, when she asked me "Do you have exhibitions like this overseas?" I explained to her that I really hadn't given such a thing very much thought, and indeed, it was all I could do to keep up with my current system of one major exhibition here in Tokyo each year. She went on to say that she thought that people in other countries would surely be interested in these prints ... I had to smile at that point, and told her that, yes indeed, people in other countries were not only interested in seeing the prints, but were already collecting them!

Over on the left page you can see the names of the people who supported my work during this past year (through subscription to this third album, or purchase of one of the previous two), and among them you will see quite a few names from outside Japan. Historically of course, the idea of westerners being interested in Japanese prints is nothing new at all - ukiyo-e prints were among the items taken home by many of the very early visitors. And indeed, if this were not the case, you wouldn't be holding this album right now, because this particular foreigner wouldn't have made it!

During the years that I worked on reproducing Katsukawa Shunsho's Hyakunin Isshu a number of westerners collected them, even though those prints - with their inscrutable poetry and difficult to read calligraphy - were not the most 'accessible' designs. The type of prints that I am making now however, offer few barriers to understanding, and are very attractive to people from other cultures. If you were to count the names over on the left page, you will see that 26%, just over a quarter of my collectors, are now from overseas.

But if I haven't had exhibitions in other countries yet, how have these people discovered my work? Well some of them learned about it while they were here in Japan, but most of them have never actually been here - they found out about these albums from the internet, where I have a comprehensive website. In a way then, one could say that I do have an 'exhibition' overseas - one that is open 24 hours a day seven days a week!

The first of these Surimono Albums had rather a long 'gestation' period; during the last few years of work on the previous series, I thought long and hard about what prints to include in that album. Now that the series has been running for a few years though (which incidentally seems quite hard to believe), I am finding that I see possible 'candidates' for inclusion everywhere I look! Each time I peruse a book on Japanese prints I see some; and whenever I receive a catalogue from a print dealer it sends the idea basket overflowing! But having access to such a wealth of ideas can be a bit dangerous - it is all too easy to get greedy, or as my mother used to say to us kids "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!" The challenge for me is to create a well-balanced set of images; as much as I would like to, it simply isn't possible to have all ten prints made with 30 impressions! And indeed, I have found from discussions with the collectors that it is quite frequently the simpler designs that are their favourites. Those though, are the most difficult to find!

That will be my challenge over the coming year - to maintain the standard of these albums through selection of appropriate designs, and of course through the creation of beautiful prints. Thank you very much for your support of this album. I hope you will treasure it, and will enjoy viewing it as much as I have enjoyed making it.

February 2002


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