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Mokuhanga Exhibition and interactive workshop

Yōkai of a parakeet that held on to a piece of driftwood for 1000 years
Yōkai of forgotten flowers on window sills
Yōkai of a bird that was killed by a cat, found by a little girl and buried in a flower bed
Interactive talk at Creative Arts Napier
Creative Arts Napier
In introduction to the traditional Japanese woodblock printing technique in works, talks and workshops


The works- the stories

While the interest in this exhibition was mostly focussed on the technique (Japanese woodblock printing), there is a story to the works. This is the story. And the technique. It is the story of urban yōkai.

What are yōkai; depending on who tells the story, they are monsters, spirits , not really ghosts, as they have never lived. If you are familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away , you are familiar with yōkai, as they are the customers of the bathhouse Chihiro works at to save her parents. I would rather describe them as manifestations, and treat my "discovery" of them as such.

In a contemporary collection I found them described as Urban myth, like the “tarantula in the banana box”. While not quite to the point, the combination of Japanese tradition and urban interpretation it triggered a whole range of creatures, that I would like to explore further.


I studied Japanese woodcut with Roslyn Kean in Melbourne/ Australia, Eva Pietzcker in Berlin/ Germany and at Mi-Lab in Japan, where my teachers have been Tuula Moilanen (Doctor of Arts) Finland, Chihiro Taki (Master of Arts), Japan, Michiko Hamada (Master of Fine Arts), Japan, and Ayao Shiokawa (Master of Fine Arts), Japan.

My thanks go to all of them for their willingness to share their skill, knowledge and experience.

My practice is diverse. A painter and graphic artist by heart and training, I have worked in installation, ceramics, print, collage, assemblage. Often my aspiration to understand a new medium is fueled by the desire to make informed material decisions for specific projects.

I like the misplaced, the lost, the in-between. My need is for definition, contour, a moment of sharpness. A print needs loss, ink and control to come into being.

My growing understanding and practice of mokuhanga help me to achieve a lost and misplaced atmosphere in my works.

As an illustrator, representative motifs give me security. A trail of breadcrumbs to venture into lack context like a foreign language or culture.

I am always keen to collaborate with other artists and curators and to share my passion for mokuhanga in talks and demonstrations.

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Written by

Sybille Schlumbom a.k.a. billadonna

10 Nov 2019

Interests I always wanted to be an alien life form designer.But that is another story and will be told in another time at another place.