During our ANNUAL WINTER group exhibitions we often take the opportunity to host guest artists from outside our regular stable, and outside our usual geography. This is the case with Ralph Kiggell, a guest artist from England and now based in Bangkok. Kiggell’s prints caught our attention with their bold, playful imagery and masterful use of the woodblock technique. The works included in ‘Tracing the Line’ are inspired by Japan not only in their use of traditional woodblock, but in their subject matter. Trained as a woodblock printer in Japan, the scenes of Kiggell’s prints merge Japanese tradition and contemporary life. It’s our pleasure to host such dynamic work during this exhibition.
I was drawn to woodblock printing for several reasons.
One reason is that I was interested in the Japanese aesthetic, which is superbly represented in Japanese woodblock prints of the last 400 years. Another is that, as any artist who has printed knows, there is something compelling about carving a design on one material and transferring it to another. Another very important reason is that woodblock printing uses natural materials and is sensitive to the environment.
When I went first went to Japan, I was fortunate to be able to study traditional techniques of woodblock printing at the atelier of the Yoshida family in Tokyo. My teacher, Tsukasa, was the youngest son of the famous printmaker Toshi Yoshida, and the grandson of Hiroshi Yoshida, whose superb prints had helped revive the popularity of woodblock printing in the early 20th century. Hiroshi Yoshida was one of a new generation of printmakers, who adopted and adapted the Ukiyoe woodblock printing techniques of the previous two or so centuries with a freshness and new international appeal.
Later, I studied in Kyoto with another technically groundbreaking and innovative woodblock artist: Akira Kurosaki. His contemporary outlook and mastery of a new repertoire of techniques has helped continue the revitalisation and internationalisation of woodblock printing in Japan.
Finally, I returned to Tokyo to complete a Master’s course in woodblock printmaking under two well-known contemporary printmakers at Tama Art University, first with Fukita Fumiaki and later with Keisei Kobayashi.
For the last 12 years or so, I have based my studio in Bangkok from where I can fly conveniently to other parts of Asia to participate in workshops, exhibitions, and conferences about the ever-expanding world of woodblock printing. My work as an artist-printmaker has led me to a series of fascinating collaborations from hand-printed books to murals and illustration work. More recently, I have been participating in all kinds of residencies.
Ralph Kiggell, April 2017