Dwight Hwang will demonstrate the art of nature printing with commentary by Emily Miller to coincide with the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s (SBMM) art exhibit Fishing with Paper & Ink. The event will take place 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at SBMM, 113 Harbor Way. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. to SBMM members, 6:45 p.m. to non-members.
Cost is $10 for SBMM members, $20 for non-members. To register, visit www.sbmm.org or call 805-456-8747. The event is sponsored by Marie Morrisroe.
The objective of nature printing is to express the essence of nature through the medium of paper or cloth and ink. The simple elegance of common subjects is preferred. Whether leaf, shell, crab or fish, each plant or animal has its own texture, shape and energy. By isolating the subject in the negative space on a sheet of paper, this signature can be identified.
The results are Zen-like renderings that praise the diversity and beauty of nature. Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese method of nature printing that uses fishes, sea creatures, or similar subjects as printing plates in its process.
Hwang’s first exposure to Japanese gyotaku occurred at a tackle shop in Tokyo, where the walls were covered with fish prints.
His realization that a fish was not only the subject, but the tool by which art is created, led him to more adeptly manipulate the fish into naturalistic positions. In tandem with his wife Hazel, Hwang continuously strives to fine tune their process while they restrict themselves by using only the original materials of this age-old tradition — sumi and washi.
Displaying an aptitude toward conveying subjects at different perspectives and angles, it is their wish to instill an undeniable sense of life and motion to these underwater creatures, which they hope will inspire and awe those who look upon them. His work has been shown in the U.S., France and Monaco; and his work has been published in several books.
Hwang’s first major solo exhibit Impressions of the Sea: Gyotaku Fish Prints was held at the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles: he is currently working on projects with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the outdoor lifestyle brand Patagonia.
“My many years in Japan have taught me some very important things,” he said. “However, one that stands out, and remains to sculpt how I view the Japanese approach to life and artistry, is the cultural love and admiration for simplicity, fleeting moments and the ‘Perfect Imperfection.’ To take a flawed subject and emphasize it to the point of it becoming beautiful.”
Miller first experimented with gyotaku in 2016, on the island of Kodiak, Alaska. Although distinctly different from feudal Japan, where gyotaku originated, Kodiak is also populated with fisherpeople who are sustained and inspired by their ocean harvests.
As a federal fisheries observer, she saw the relevance for gyotaku in today’s world, which is increasingly concerned with sustainable, local sources of seafood.
Miller began an apprenticeship with Hwang and his wife with the objective of facilitating communication between fishermen, scientists and the general public at the cross section of their interests — fascination with the sea.
The resulting conversation, she hopes, “will help unite newly merging spheres of biology, art, ethics and economics.”
For more about the Maritime Museum, visit sbmm.org or call 805-962-8404 for details.
— Rita Serotkin for Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.