Thursday, March 5, 2015

Two Landscapes by Umetaro Azechi

I've written once before about a work by the Japanese artist Umetaro Azechi. He was an avid lover of nature and mountain climber, and I wrote about his woodcut Mountain Man I.

His woodcuts are very distinct for its "simple and rustic" look (as the artist himself put it), unique approaches to depicting space (a sort of flattening in order to see everything at once from above, which reminds me of traditional Inuit prints and wall hangings), and cool, clear colors. The blog Funomena has a good article about discovering Azechi's work.

I thought these two woodcuts of mountains compared well together. In the first, everything seems to rise up. The white road curves slightly as it moves through a scattered handful of houses, toward a hill that seems like a great rolling wave. Puzzle pieces float on the surface of the wave's dip like broken ice. Behind the wave rises what seems to be a long-dormant volcano, The flattened tip of this tallest mountain bears a black and blue gash that peels down the side.

In the second woodcut, everything seems to pull down. A congregation of dwarfed hills attentively observe a house, which sits in a happy, little green and speckled pool. A few even smaller hills or pointed rocks descend into the white valley, edging closer to the house, like curious children.

What strikes me most in both of these prints is how much the mountains and structures seem alive and possessing human-like personalities, motivations, and relationships with each other. There is a great sweep of collective interactions taking place within the scene as a whole. These simple and still images are also folk tales and portraits of small communities.

Looking at these, I feel so small, but also so utterly welcomed.

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