Katsutoshi Yuasa

Katsutoshi Yuasa’s woodcut prints reveal themselves slowly, as though the wealth of detail contained within them is only just coalescing. Complex, evocative, and exquisitely finished, they bear the hallmarks of an artist who is steeped in his medium’s traditions; but they also retain a decidedly contemporary edge. His subjects hint at fragments of modern experience: the images flicker and shift as if on a computer screen or television set, raked with digital noise (Maggie Gray).

How did you discovered the handmade printing world and why did you choose it as your art of expression?

I studied oil painting at Art University in Tokyo, Japan, but I didn't like the smell of oil and I was also stuck at painting. I attended a short printmaking course and I found a new way of making art works in printmaking. At that time, I used photography as a starting point of my production. Traditional woodcut is very far from digital photographs, but I found possibilities of creation between the digital and the traditional analog techniques. 

What are you working on in your studio right now?

Last summer, I joined an art project in Norway and I travelled with 5 artists to the coast by a ship. I took many photos and was inspired Norwegian landscapes and culture. So now I'm making a new work with a photo which I took there. It’s a very old farm house with a big old tree. 

Can you describe your working routine and how is your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

My studio space is not big enough and it is on the first floor of my house. My son comes to my studio space usually in the daytime, so I work at night most of the days and sometimes in the morning or from 10pm to 5am. 

I'd love to make works outside of my studio. I mean, I apply to the artist in residence programs outside of Japan and stay there a month or even up to three months. It is a very good opportunity to refresh ideas. 

Tell me about your process, where or how things begin, how they evolve and with which material do you work.

Most of my work is based on my photography and I sometimes use images from the Internet for a specific concept. Then I transfer the image on the surface of a birch/shina plywood. Then I start to curve all details by hand with tiny knives by following lines. Then print on paper by hand with a Baren which is traditional Japanese hand printing tool. 

What are you having the most trouble resolving in your process?

I don't have many missed curves. Even if I have them, it is in a process so I don't care about it much. But printing with water-based ink is very difficult, especially if I make a large size work. I need more practice to print with water-based inks.

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I’ve done woodcut prints for over 10 years but I've been trying something new every time. I try to use new materials, inks, pigments and papers. Challenging myself is very important in order to keep the creativity fresh.

Tell me about your influences in the handmade printing range or in other ranges (music, cinema, etc) 

I'm really interested in the origins of photography (Niepce, Muybridge) and the photographs by contemporary artists (such as Thomas Ruff, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Demand etc.) I also love poets (Yeats, Keats and Mallarme) and books by John Cage and Toru Takemitsu.