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Bold, vibrant stencil art remains alive today

Gazing upon artworks using kappazuri , an innovative Japanese stencil printing technique, similarities can be seen with Japan’s rich tradition of ukiyo-e woodblock printing. Others might recognize an affinity with stenciling techniques found in contemporary street art.

The roots of the art form can be traced back to katazome stencil dyeing often used in textiles, particularly in special items such as patterns for kimono and other fine Japanese fabrics.

Today, there are few artists working with this technique. The Tolman Collection, one of Tokyo’s most distinguished private galleries, has drawn upon its relationship with Hiromitsu Takahashi, one of kappazuri’s last practitioners, to release the publication, “The DyEing Art of Kappazuri” (¥3,000).

The Tolman Collection is renowned for its ever-evolving collection of artworks, including paintings and an array of prints. It also holds exhibitions around the world and has built a reputation for the long-standing relationships it builds with its artists.

Takahashi’s jewel-toned, vibrant prints focus on plots of kabuki plays, where elaborately costumed performers use stylized movement, dance and song to enact comedy and tragedy. Author Lucas Martineau provides bilingual explanations of these scenes, as well as outlines of the technical process of producing kappazuri.

“Hiromitsu (Takahashi) is turning out to be the last of the kappazuri artists, something that he learned from his mother and father who both worked for Mori Yoshitoshi (a leading kappazuri practitioner) and Serizawa Keisuke (a katazome artist),” said Norman H. Tolman, CEO of The Tolman Collection.

“His mastery of the technique of carving and printing were made possible because of his early familiarity with the tools of the trade and his early mastery of regular work,” Tolman added.

Complimentary copies of the book are also offered to purchasers of Takahashi’s limited edition prints, available on the gallery’s website. Visit https://tolmantokyo.com/artists/takahashi-hiromitsu/ for further details or call the gallery at 03-3434-1300 to discuss private and other showings.

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