By Brian Shure
Many of the artists included in Locally Made responded to a series of questions about their materials and process. A selected response follows.
Name: Brian Shure
Location of residence: Providence, Rhode Island
Location of work (studio/office): Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Media: Spitbite aquatint, drypoint burnishing on 5 copper plates, printed in metallic ink on Aizome (indigo), Gampi (mulberry paper), mounted on a makimono (handscroll).
Process: Published and printed by master printer Paul Mullowney at Tokugenji Press in Ouda, Japan, in an edition of 10. This print is part of a project that resulted in five hanging scrolls (kakimono) and two hand scrolls. I worked from dozens of ink sketches made on site at Ise Jingu, the Shinto shrine complex in Mie Prefecture, in Japan, dating back to the third century. Geku, associated with food offerings to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omikami, is one of the two main shrines.
The etching plates were made and proofed during a two-month residency at Tokugenji, a Buddhist temple in Southern Nara that was home to Paul Mullowney, and his press and publishing business for about a decade. The scroll mounting was done by national treasure Yoshimura Shosaku, whose studio was a few blocks away in the medieval town of Ouda. Also invaluable to this project was Ritsuko Hirai (RISD BA 2002 Printmaking, MFA 2008 Textiles), my interpreter and cultural guide during a two-week residency at Ise Jingu before beginning the project at Tokugenji.
This project was one highlight in my ongoing interest in Asian printmaking and painting theory and processes, and the cultures in which they are embedded. I had had the opportunity to study scroll mounting processes in China and Japan while coordinating the Crown Point Press Chinese Woodblock Project from 1988 to 1994, and this project gave me an opportunity to incorporate some of what I had learned into my own work. Though little used in the West, the strength and durability of these delicate processes and materials is elegant and practical. The format and materials are related to the Buddhist Sutras copied by monks as a meditation, often using ink made of powdered gold on extremely durable paper made from bast fibers of the bark and/or stems of mulberry and other plants. The paper is dyed 30 times or more to achieve the deep indigo color, and this process strengthens the paper and repels mildew and insects. The Sutras were generally placed in containers in temples as offerings, and many have survived for more than a thousand years. The earliest surviving prints are in this format. With this project I was able to explore my interest in these traditions.
My interactions with the administration of the Shinto shrine, Buddhist temples, and community of Ouda was inspiring for a number of threads that continue in my work, and not incidentally, for an ongoing program of printmaking student and faculty exchanges and Wintersession travel classes to Japan.