Onishi Gallery is proud to present “;Thirty-Six New Views of Mount Fuji,”; a print show by artist, poet, professor, and award-winning translator Seisai, the artist name of Peter MacMillan.
Founder of the Japan Institute (December 2012), an organization that promotes Japanese culture, Seisai was born in the Irish countryside and has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. Through his artwork, literary translation, and teaching, he has dedicated a considerable part of his energies to introducing the English-speaking world to classical Japanese poetry and culture. With an M.A. in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in English Literature, Seisai has also been a Visiting Fellow and Research Fellow at Princeton University, Columbia University, and Oxford University, and now regularly teaches creative writing and art, gives poetry readings, and lectures on Japanese culture and translation. He is a Visiting Professor at Kyorin University and also teaches at Tokyo University. Seisai was recently elected to be a UNESCO artist to exhibit at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris this October 2012.
“Thirty-Six New Views of Mount Fuji” takes as its starting point Katsushika Hokusai’s “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji,” a series of color woodblock prints that depict Mount Fuji from 36 different perspectives. Seisai uses lithograph printing, offset printing, hand painting, and gold leaf applied by hand in his prints, drawing upon Hokusai’s motifs as well as those of other Japanese and Western artists. Further inspiring this series was Seisai’s recent translation of a book on Mount Fuji in literature. This text piqued his interest in juxtaposing an idealized historical view of Mount Fuji and Japanese culture, with the reality of contemporary society. As if through gaps in the clouds, his 36 views offer random glimpses into the development of post-World War II Japan. By comparing the often humorous and witty disparities between the original and the recomposed images, Seisai invites viewers to examine the differences between traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Edo period Japan nurtured a formidable consumer society, but it was also one based on an impressive model of sustainability. By contrast, modern consumer society cares too little for sustainability and recklessly abuses the earth’s resources. Seisai composes images of social critique that pose questions related to art history as well as to the possibility of satire in contemporary society.
“Thirty-Six New Views of Mount Fuji” explores the gap between traditional Japanese culture and the careless consumerism of present-day society. Yet while Seisai’s prints raise consciousness about preserving the world’s resources for future generations, at the same time, his images are playful and fun, incorporating ideas of asobi (‘play’)—a notion important to traditional Japanese art—into his social critique. This first major series in Seisai’s developing career as a printmaker has already received wide recognition, and is being exhibited across Japan, in Paris, and in New York.
Seisai also exhibits this series at the rare book reading room of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library (Kent Hall) at Columbia University from October 31 through November 30.