“At the end of Word War II, civil leaders replaced the militarists. They brought a new peaceful order, but had no respect for our tradition. Social atmosphere, environment and the scenic beauty of the country were regarded as worthless.
The twin delusions that old equals bad while new equals good destroyed what had survived the fires of war. The tragedy of forgetting to cherish and the discarding of true things has continued ever since.
I was born in 1929 and lived through this transition from childhood to young adulthood. In those years the firebugs, loaches, shrimp, eels and catfish disappeared from the rivers. Our beautiful red pines had disappeared due to wartime needs for materials.
The traditional simple farmhouses were remodeled and replaced. The many water driven mill wheels along the rivers and the rice-pounding sheds were seen as obstacles to people with modern ideas. I didn’t know what to do but I felt that it was a shame to lose them!
This situation ignited in my boyish heart the desire to collect the discards. But unlike sake bottles, houses and waterwheels are not easy to drag home. Yet, young as I was, I felt it was a matter of great urgency. How can I preserve them and clasp them to my heart?
It was just after the war, and artist’s materials and cameras were virtually unattainable, particularly for a poor country boy like me. It was then that I considered carving these things I loved.
I took a wooden board from the shed and the paper from our old warehouse. I took a simple brush, and I made a carving knife from an old file. My baren (i.e. tool to press the paper to the woodblock) was made from tightly wound twine. I had all I needed to start printing. And I had in mind what Lu Xun (1881-1936) once said: the pocket sized baren is the smallest and yet most powerful printing tool in the world, even poverty can not stop it.
In 1955 I went to Kyoto to see the annual Exhibition of Fine Art. One particular piece shocked me like nothing ever before. Eulogy to Flower Hunting by Munakata Shiko (1903-1975). It contradicted all common sense on woodblock printing. Limitation to black ink on white paper, impressively large size (139.5 x 169.0 cm), raw cut: What a revelation!
I have finally found a language to express what I have kept to myself for so long. My mind was filled with admiration for the past and my hart was filled with the desire to make it part of the present. I decided to become an artist and woodblock printer.
I ran to lumber shop and bought some plywood. Solid wood was scarce and thus expensive. I bought a used six-panel folding screen and made my first large landscape print. I was surrounded, submerged, and enveloped by it.
When I experienced the first festival, I was greatly impressed by its divine power. I added the festivals to my range of subjects and they soon became a major theme in my work along with landscapes. – My wandering continues…” (Inui Tai: Youthful wandering (1987) - The Artist’s statement on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition at the Sanyo Gallery in Himeji)
Inui Tai (born 1929)
"Remembering summer passing festival in Murotsu"
Woodblock print on paper, pair
154 x 85 (60 1/2 x 33 1/2 in), each
Mounting 213.5 x 87 cm (84 x 34 1/4 in.), each