` Carving Out Beauty - The Life and Work of Munakata Shiko

In Praise of Flower Hunting, 1954 /「華狩頌(はなかりしょう)1954」, Shiko Munakata

Carving Out Beauty - The Life and Work of Munakata Shiko

"Like the vastness of space, like a universe unlimited, untold, unattainable, and inscrutable- that is the woodcut."
– Shiko Munakata.
(Munakata: the “Way” of the Woodcut, Brooklyn, Pratt Adlib Press, 1961)

Best known for his earlier phase of black and white woodblock prints, MUNAKATA Shiko (1903-1975) is one of the greatest Japanese artists of the 20th century. His works are instantly recognisable by the expressive urgency with which he worked to bring out the vitality that is characteristic of his art. A self-taught artist, he continued to be inspired by the love of nature and folk traditions of his native Aomori. Perhaps the most indicative element of his work has been the Buddhist imagery created in Toyama (after the 1945 bombing of Tokyo forced him to escape the capital), which heavily featured in his prints and earned him a number of accolades from esteemed temples of Japan. He made his mark on an international scale, too, receiving first prize in exhibitions held in Lugano (1952), Sao Paulo (1955), Venice (1956), and Hayward Gallery in London (1991), as part of an exhibition which subsequently toured in the UK.

Ensuring the legacy of his name lives on in present day, independent curator and researcher, ISHII Yoriko, has been a key figure in lectures and publications aimed at revealing a hidden side of the folk art master. As MUNAKATA’s granddaughter, she is arguably best equipped to do so.

Commemorating the 45th anniversary of MUNAKATA’s death, The Japan Foundation is delighted to welcome her as she delivers an insightful online talk about the life and work of the artist, drawing on personal memories of him to paint a picture of the man behind the woodblock prints. Elaborating on the philosophy and techniques used by MUNAKATA in his work, as well as the different stages of this career as an artist, ISHII will explain the significance his prints continue to have – both in Japan and globally – and what is being done to preserve his memory.

After her presentation, ISHII will have a brief conversation with artist, educator and author, Elspeth Lamb.

About the speakers

ISHII Yoriko

Born in Tokyo in 1956, she is the granddaughter of MUNAKATA Shiko. After graduating from university, she began working as a curator at the Munakata Museum of Art (closed in 2011) in Kamakura City. In recent years, through exhibition supervision, writing, lectures, and similar activities, she has worked to convey the lesser known attributes of her grandfather. ISHII is also currently a special researcher at Nanto Shiritsu Fukumitsu Museum.

Elspeth Lamb

Elspeth Lamb is an artist, educator and author. Her book ‘Papermaking for Printmakers’ was published by A&C Black London in 2006 and sells worldwide. She has exhibited in New York, London, Tokyo, Kyoto and Toronto and she has been artist in residence in Japan several times since 2000 ,studying and researching with hanga masters and more recently with a Unesco Hosokawa-shi papermaking master in Ogawa, Japan.

This talk has been made possible with the kind assistance of Kayoko Tezuka, Tuning for the Future (TFF) in Japan.


Please note that this session will be hosted on Zoom.

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