Arts & CultureCampus & City

From rising sun to true north: UAlberta Museums celebrates Japanese and Canadian printmaking

What: The International Print Exhibition: Canada and Japan
When: February 16 to March 25
Where: University of Alberta Museums at Enterprise Square
Tickets: Admission by donation
(For more information, visit the UAlberta Museums webpage)

Despite being separated by distance, language, and culture, Canada and Japan both share in the fine art of printmaking. This fact is something a local exhibition hopes to celebrate, exploring contemporary themes, ideas, and images that cross cultural borders.

The International Print Exhibition: Canada and Japan is an art exhibition developed by the Kyoto Print Exhibition Executive Committee that, in collaboration with the Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP) and the University of Alberta Museums, showcases and celebrates prints from Canadian and Japanese artists in Edmonton. The exhibition is being hosted at Enterprise Square until March 25.

April Dean, Executive Director at SNAP, notes that despite the confluence of Canadian and Japanese print art, there is not a central theme that unites the works. “There are a lot of relationships across works, there’s a lot of works that thematically relate to the environment or of isolation in the environment or separateness from the human body in the natural world. But, there are a lot of works that fall outside of those categories, like the built environments versus the natural environments,” she says.

Printmaking is the general process of creating artworks through printing an image from a matrix made from a plate of material. Beyond that, printmaking encompasses many different techniques and materials, including woodcut, lithography, relief printing, etching and more.

The Canadian side of the exhibition, including 45 Canadian artists, was difficult to organize, according to Dean, who co-curated the exhibition alongside print artist Liz Ingram. They both aimed to select a variety of artists, who were established artists or emerging artists, from across Canada to be featured at Enterprise Square in Edmonton and the Kyoto Municipal Museum in Japan.

However, while Dean and Ingram strived for artistic excellence, technical variety and diversity of content in the selection of Canadian artists, Dean admits an Albertan tendency in the submission of Canadian artists.

“Certainly, because Liz and I are both based in Alberta, it is somewhat biased and so there is a large Alberta contingent, but we worked to include and reflect all regions of the country.”

While printmaking has a multitude of techniques and media (physical materials) to work with, Dean says that she has noticed a discernible difference between the Canadian and Japanese artworks within the exhibition.

“In the Canadian selections, there is a lot of photomechanical techniques, so images created through photographic means, whether that’s digital prints or photo etching or silkscreen,” she says. “On the Japanese side, almost all the images rely on handmade or hand-drawn techniques, so there isn’t a photographic reproduction in the process.”   

Dean mentions that while the International Print Exhibition offers a cultural exchange between Canada and Japan, it also engages with print artists from within Canada. “I think any time we do this kind of international exchange, everyone really stands to learn a lot about how our artform is being used in other parts of the world to things that resonate with artists,” she says.

She also hopes that the exhibition will offer new perspectives on the art of printmaking from between the two disparate cultures. “If we get to the basics of printmaking as a way of exploring our shared humanity, the further our reach is, the more we’re able to achieve that end.”

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