January 16, 2017
Paul Binnie is one of the most famous living contemporary woodblock print artists, with collections admired the world over.
Paul Binnie began creative life as a student of painting and etching at Edinburgh College of Art. As a young graduate, he moved to Paris where his passion for Japanese Ukiyo-e printing (fuelled by a burgeoning collection of Japonisme) led to his decision to migrate to Japan. He knew no Japanese, had little knowledge of the country or its customs, but was determined to submit himself to a life of woodblock printing. Twenty years later, Binnie is one of the most famous living contemporary woodblock print artists, with collections admired the world over.
His traditional style bears a debt to Seki Kenji, with whom Binnie took up an apprenticeship during his first few years in Tokyo. With Kenji, Binnie became practised in the meticulous art of woodblock printing, as well as experimenting in other styles, filling his portfolio with etchings, oil paintings, watercolours, lithographs and prints in the shin hanga style.
Binnie, now south London based, pays tribute to a range of influences, building a collection which nods both to contemporary and ancient Japan, as well as European nineteenth and twentieth century artistic movements. This distinctive blend of styles has led to Binnie's work becoming increasingly popular. But it is not a success which comes lightly. Binnie explains the labour of his art, noting that a typical print will take up to six weeks to realise. In the creation of his current series - a collection which will depict the role of Japanese women throughout the twentieth century - he has devoted several months to a single print. He shows us the calluses the printing process has produced on his hands with a quiet kind of pride.
The subjects to which Binnie has given his focus have ranged from landscapes to skyscapes to single sitting figures. His classical training - with early prints portraying the very traditional subjects of Kabuki and Noh theatre - give his creations an edge lacked by many woodblock printmakers today.