Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Suminagashi and other Japanese delicacies

No, I haven't crossed continents to find this word (and spelling it is a major hurdle!). As many new ideas and creative processes, it came via YouTube, that bottomless pit of useful (and useless) information. I watched videos showing how to do it, and realised that I'd been a suminagashi exponent for a long time.

So what is it? Better go to my source and type the word in. You'll get all sorts of versions, but the basic principle is a way of applying coloured inks to paper by floating them on water in a suitable container, and floating your (preferably non-sized) paper on the colours, pressing a little to get the contact between the colours (briefly), then transferring the paper to an absorbant surface (e.g. newspaper covered with kitchen paper). A layer of kitchen paper absorbs any drips ssuperfluous water on the surface of your artwork! 

Not suminagashi, of course. This is
liquid acrylic paint poured onto a
canvas and then interpreted as
'rainy city'

That is the Japanese technique - more or less - but it's not the only way to get the result you desire. Pouring liquid paint is a standard way of starting abstract, even figurative works. The marks made with or without the artist's help (e.g. pushing paint round with a stick or brush) are then interpreted.

So is suminagashi art?  I found kids websites where they were having great fun creating such paper. My efforts were no better and I expect that a chimp could have done just as well with a little help (the kids got help, too). But let's not get it out of proportion. People are paying fortunes for 'art' made by chimps and elephants. There's stiff competition out there!

The wet-paint technique for enhancing paper has been around a long time. We used to call it marbleizing! Marble-structured paper is sold commercially for paper folding, journalling, even letter-writing. There's nothing new under the sun, except that every result you make by hand without duplication processes has its own individual personality. No two bits of paper produced by you are the same. You can make copies by scanning your exhibit and printing it, but there's only one original. It's unique. 

So is suminagashi artwork or paper preparation? I tend to think it is the latter. I'll post what I've done today as soon as it's dry enough to scan (I used A4 paper for that reason, not just because I don't have a container for bigger sheets of paper). It is genuine aquadoodling, though a far cry from genuine suminagashi, so go there to see my results.

But there's a user warning! I tried several colour mediums, but none was ideal. I know there are special inks for the traditional suminagashi process, but no one seems to sell them in Germany. Watercolours (an anachronism seeing as you are floating them in water) come next if you don't have access to the wonderfully light-weight, intense inks that are ideal. Acrylics paints need a lot of diluting and are still heavy, sticking alarmingly to the bottom of the pot as soon as you have added them. One idea may be to use fluid mediums to weight the water. Extravagant as you need to get fresh water for every "dip". The demo ladies on the videos use materials as if they were going out of fashion, but that's not economically viable for most of us. 

Consequently I will experiment some more with what's in my studio and see what happens. 

A word to the technical term. We are used to Japanese vocabulary. We love the way the words roll around the tongue and have a mysteriously magical effect on our vocabulary. We need them because they seem to describe the respective activity more efficiently than our sad little translations. They are elegant words. And somehow express more than their foreign sisters. A few years ago hardly any Europeans knew what a TSUNAMI is. Now everyone does. I can still remember tales about "tidal waves" of frightening dimension (the Dee estuary is flat and wide) rushing inland in North Wales. I never actually saw one, and could not find a record of any, but the description sounds like a tsunami. People sang in pubs long before KAREOKE came to stay. Cartoon-drawing preceded MANGA and of course, IKEBANA aand ORIGAMI came into English a long time ago. One of the recent additions has been SU-DOKU and its variations (KAKURO et al.). Kakuro means "cross sums", but you won't find the puzzles described as such. SUSHI is quite sophisticated and can cost an arm and a leg at a special restaurant. It's raw fish. Would my mother, who fried or boiled everything, have fancied it?  

Back to the water games!

No comments:

Post a Comment