the history of gyotaku...

the word "gyotaku" is a japanese word that comes from the chinese charaters:


>>> gyo = "fish"
>>> taku = "stone monument rubbing"

it is an asian art that originated during the early 1800's... prior to the mid 1900's this art was better known as "gyo-shu" or "uo-zuri", which means "to print" or "to rub" a fish... another expression common expression was "gyo-kei" or "uo-gata", meaning "impression" or "form or shape" of a fish...

it was once thought that gyotaku may have been introduced into japan from china since much of japanese culture was influenced by chinese culture... however, upon investigation, it was found that although the chinese have excellent techniques and materials for stone monument rubbing, there has been no evidence of development in gyotaku... since the materials used for gyotaku, especially the paper and ink, were not readily available outside of japan, china, and korea, it has led many to conclude that gyotaku came from japan...

in japan, fishermen would make gyotaku to preserve records of their catches... the oldest gyotaku was found in japan, dating back to 1862... Lord Sakai of the Yamagata prefecture made a big catch in one night, and to preserve the memory, prints were made of large red sea bream... while the gyotaku was commissioned by Lord Sakai, the actual artist is unknown...

traditionally, prints were made on rice paper using carbon-based sumi ink... there are two different techniques for making gyotaku: the indirect method and the direct method...

the indirect method involves placing the paper on top of a prepared fish, and then applying the ink to the paper using a small cloth blotter... if done correctly, the final result is an accurately sized, slightly abstract gyotaku...

the direct method is the technique that i use... it differs from the indirect method in that you apply the ink to the fish and then place the paper on the fish... the final product differs in the amount of detail that you are able to capture in the fins and scales of the fish... the direct method gives you an exact replication of the fish because the print is taken straight from the specimen...

both methods provide beautiful prints, but with different effects... i prefer the direct method, because the result is an exact detailed representation of the fish and also because of the challenge involved in trying to get the "perfect" print...


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if you are unable to access the site, or are having problems, let me know...
dkkondo@kondogyotaku.net

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