SUMI-FUSION: Mokuhanga & Nara 墨-フュージョン 木版画と奈良

Still renowned today as a center of production for the finest sumi ink, Nara is an ideal site for IMC2020. This fourth convening of the conference, titled Sumi-Fusion, will celebrate the versatility of sumi in woodblock printing, both historically and in contemporary applications across Japan and abroad. Additionally, it will explore the presence of black, and how it relates to color.

Lying at the easternmost end of the Silk Road, Nara was a meeting point where artisans, monks, merchants and literati from China, Korea and India mingled with the citizens of the ancient capital. And it was here, with the refinement of available materials for its production, that woodblock printmaking became an important medium of communication.

IMC2020 will combine a look at Nara’s role in the development of mokuhanga while spotlighting its contemporary fusions: its relevance today, its globalizing future, and its ever-growing interest among new generations of art students, crafts-people, artists and academics.

IMC2020 will be designed around exhibitions, discussions, demonstrations and academic presentations that reflect the diversity of interests and approaches to mokuhanga within the wider disciplinary world of print-media and contemporary art.

We welcome participation in the conference at all levels of interest, and encourage connections to the topics suggested by the umbrella theme Sumi-Fusion and its sub-themes Histories, Aesthetics, Intersections and Futures as outlined below.

  • Histories 歴史について
  • Origins of the craft and use of woodblock print in Japan
  • Development in and around Nara of print-related materials such as sumi ink, prototypes for the baren, and early paper-production
  • The socio-cultural relevance of historical woodblock printed materials, books etc. in Nara temples/treasure-houses and beyond
  • Historical print production centers, and print dissemination in Nara
  • Text and image in woodblock print
  • Sumi-e (ink painting), sumizuri (early woodblock prints), sumi takazuri (rubbings) and suminagashi (ink marbling), and their relation to sumi in historical/modern/contemporary woodblock printing
  • Historical influences of Chinese woodblock printing (mubanhua) on mokuhanga, and modern influences of mokuhanga on printmaking in China
  • Historical and contemporary handprinted mokuhanga books
  • Aesthetics 墨と色


  • Black in mokuhanga: deep blacks, transparent black gradations, gomazuri, sumi urazuri  and other printing techniques related to sumi
  • Black and white expression in graphic art (Africa, Americas, Asia, medieval and modern Europe, Russia)
  • Black and white sosaku hanga, eg in the works of Taninaka Yasunori, Munakata Shiko, Hiratsuka Unichi, Bokunen Naka and successors
  • Comparison of sumi blacks to oil-based blacks or blacks in other print media
  • Black and monochrome in contemporary print media
  • Black: color or non-color?

COLOR 色と木版画

  • The introduction of color in mokuhanga: multiblock color separation and registration, and other printing techniques related to color
  • Mineral, vegetable and chemical colors and their impact on mokuhanga
  • Color pigment production in Japan
  • Color expression in contemporary and historical mokuhanga: ukiyoe, sosaku hanga, shin hanga and hybrid prints
  • The relationship between black and color
  • Intersections 交差する視点

Mokuhanga’s intersections with

  • Japanese concepts, e.g. hansei (反省); fukinsei (不均整); zen (禪), iki (いき); wabi (侘) and sabi (寂)
  • Society, culture, politics and the environment
  • Craft inside and outside Japan
  • Other print media
  • Sculpture/video+film/performance/digital art/installation
  • Contemporary art
  • Futures 次の世代へ
  • Mokuhanga’s dissemination and reception as an international print medium
  • Mokuhanga’s relation to institutions of dissemination, print workshops, art fairs, publishing houses etc.
  • The attraction of mokuhanga to young artists
  • Teaching mokuhanga in schools, workshops and colleges
  • Innovations in tools and materials for mokuhanga
  • International mokuhanga in relation to its Japanese origins
  • The future of mokuhanga in Japan