Gyotaku

DEFINITION

In Japanese tradition, a relief print made from an actual fish, and sometimes from a shell, leaf, or other object from nature ? inked and placed on paper or cloth. In Japanese, gyo means impression, and taku means fish. This is a relatively new technique. The oldest known prints were commissioned in 1862 by Lord Sakai in the Yamagata Prefecture to preserve the memory of a record catch. Ever since, gyotaku has been employed as a way for Japanese sport fishermen to record the exact size and species of fish they've caught. The original kind of gyotaku involves applying black ink directly to a fish, and making an impression on thin rice paper or cloth. This creates an image with bold contrasts and powerful lines. Such gyotaku are commonly exhibited on the walls of homes, or kept in journals to document fishing achievements, much as western fishermen display photographs and taxidermy. When Japanese fishing organizations hold contests for the largest fish caught, they typically judge gyotaku to determine winners.As gyotaku attained popularity among sportsmen, it also developed as a form of fine art. The earliest production of finely polychromed works has been credited to a master named Inada in the early 1950s. Such advanced works involve the use of small wads of cotton wrapped in silk (tanpo in Japanese) to dab watercolors onto a fish, before impressing it onto paper. Another innovation has been an "indirect" printing technique wherein colors are dabbed onto rice paper which is pressed onto the fish. Sometimes a brush is used to draw in the eye. Such refined methods make it possible to produce sharply defined shapes and lines, along with subtle layering of colors, and graded tones.see thumbnail to rightHere are some artists participating in the 8th Annual Color Gyotaku Exhibition held by the International Gyotaku Studio in 2001, along with some of their work.Children (and their teachers) might prefer to produce gyotaku using rubber forms cast directly from fish. These are available from art supply dealers. (pr. gə-yo-tah-koo)Examples:Japanese, Gyotaku, some of the text surrounding the impression: "54 cm" and "2.2 kg" ? the length and weight of the catch.

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