‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’: Hiroshige’s Seminal Series of Woodblock Prints Gets a Vibrant Reprint
From the 17th through the 19th centuries, a genre of Japanese art called ukiyo-e—translating to “pictures of the floating world”—centered on colorful depictions of landscapes, performers and sumo wrestlers, and scenes from folklore and history in vivid woodblock prints. Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), one of the most renowned artists in the tradition—and one of the last—was famous for his chromatic vistas depicting recognizable features like blossoming cherry trees and the omnipresent snow-capped cone of Mount Fuji. His final project, an ambitious collection of 120 woodblock illustrations, became known as One Hundred Famous Views of Edo and depicts what is now Tokyo throughout the seasons.
A new reprint from Taschen pairs each of the artist’s remarkable prints with text by authors Lorenz Bichler and Melanie Trede, celebrating the scenery, the city’s history, and Hiroshige’s contribution to ukiyo-e. The authors highlight how the colorful depictions of the country helped define the Western world’s visual interpretation of Japan, referencing the influence of Japonisme on European decorative arts and painters like Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, and James McNeill Whistler. The new edition is presented in a case and bound in a traditional Japanese style known as stab binding in which a series of holes are punched in the cover and the spine is elegantly bound with string.
Scheduled for release next month, you can pre-order One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: The Complete Plates on Taschen’s website. You might also enjoy Hiroshige’s instructional shadow puppet prints and a look back at a recent exhibition focusing on landscapes in the Art Institute of Chicago’s ukiyo-e archive.
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Ukrainian Artist Julia Pilipchatina Draws on the Centuries-Old Tradition of Porcelain Painting with the Future In Mind
In the 7th or 8th century, Chinese artisans devised a way to combine feldspar and kaolin and fire it at a very high temperature to produce the first porcelain, which was traded globally and highly sought-after for its elegant surfaces and ornate designs. The precise process wasn’t easy to replicate: not until the early 18th century did makers in Germany first achieve the right mix of materials and methods to produce the ceramic in Europe. Around the world, the bright, white surfaces of dinnerware and decorative vessels provided canvases for the painstaking craft of porcelain painting, emphasizing numerous patterned layers of colorful glaze. For Ukrainian artist Julia Pilipchatina, the craft of hand-embellishing plates connects her to a rich creative legacy and to personal stories and family heirlooms.
Formally educated as a historian, Pilipchatina is fascinated by the profound ties to ancestry and culture that tableware represents. “By choosing a unique plate for ourselves, we draw upon our own values, and—I hope—these objects remain in our families as testament to the lives of past generations,” she says. As a refugee from Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, the artist was forced to close her workshop, leave all of her belongings behind—save for her two dogs—and start from scratch. Now in Belgium, she’s developing a series of plates depicting detailed, chromatic insects with spotted wings, serrated legs, and feathery feet. She says:
The Beetles series was born out of an attempt to overcome my fear. It’s difficult for me to approach the topic of war. It’s too painful and feels like a black hole that drags me in as soon as I focus on it. But I suppose the nature of fear is the same, and I decided to take on a somewhat safe but strong and irrational fear of insects.
While insects have long appeared in ceramic tableware alongside other popular motifs like birds, trees, and bucolic landscapes, Pilipchatina renders each critter in a style mirroring her watercolor illustrations, inspired by an encyclopedia depicting exotic, jewel-colored specimens in intricate detail. The more she studied the images, the more the creatures ceased to be a source of anxiety as she noted their elaborate patterns and found beauty in their vibrance and textures.
Each bug’s bold, saturated color emerges through the meticulous layering of thin coats of paint, or overglaze, to the surface, then firing the piece at 800 degrees Celsius. “The cycle consists of heating and cooling to room temperature, which means that one firing can last 12 hours,” Pilipchatina says. “Since the paint is semi-transparent, achieving brightness, depth, and contrast requires many layers, and therefore many firings.”
Emphasizing beauty as a reprieve from the loss of her home and the ugliness of war, the artist focuses on tenderness and fragility in the natural world and humanity’s relationship with it and one another. Combining art and utility, an elegantly crafted dish emphasizes longevity, continuity, and tradition while connecting loved ones around the table. She says, “Having an item that belonged to a grandmother or great-grandmother is of great value and rarity. Now, I am creating such objects for the future.”
Pilipchatina explores a range of decorative ceramic designs in addition to a few series of illustrations about her dogs and children’s stories. You can find much more of her work on Behance, Instagram, and in her Etsy shop.
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Design Food Illustration
Voxel Shops and Food Stalls by Shin Oh Tuck Traditional Malaysian Culture into Nostalgic Renderings
Illustrator Shin Oh nestles childhood memories of visiting traditional Malaysian shops and food stalls within tiny three-dimensional renderings, placing the immense affection she feels for such spaces in small confines. Part of two companion series titled 126³ Tiny Voxel Shops and 126³ Voxel Hawker Stalls, the digital works are made with voxels, or volumetric pixels used for building in popular video games like Minecraft and Roblox. Whether depicting a bakery or dim sum stand, Shin constructs each stall uniformly with two walls and soft color palettes “because nostalgic memories are warm, and hawker stalls always give me fuzzy warm feelings as they serve affordable and great food,” she says. The “hawker centre is hot and stuffy, too.”
126³ Tiny Voxel Shops was the first of the pair, which Shin created for a group exhibition in 2021. “During the pre-production phase of this project, I had conversations with my mother about the shops that we used to visit back then,” she shares. “I listed down as many shops as possible and filtered the list down to ten shops I think have unique visual characteristics that people can immediately recognize when they see them.” Included are both ubiquitous and rare sights, like a tailor’s studio and a well-stocked biscuit store. “There is no modern-style décor in this shop, no bright lights, no air-conditioning. One uniqueness about traditional biscuit shop is having lots of aluminum tins and glass jars, literally stacked from floor to ceiling,” she says.
This description is typical for Shin, who shares insights into her process and the objects she chooses for each space. Her ongoing series of open-air hawker stalls continues this approach with information about the dishes served from each kiosk. Bak Kut Teh, for example, translates to “meat bone tea” and is a broth with Chinese herbs and spices, pork, mushrooms, tofu, cabbage, oil rice, and fried dough known as youtiao, and Shin’s rendering of this stand includes various pots and friers used for making the dish. Although each space is imagined, the idea is to use such commonplace and easily interpretable items to create scenes that are understandable across cultures. “People can recognize the stalls from the objects even without having to understand the signboard or read the captions,” Shin shares. “In my opinion, food connects every human together, and it conquers all, from language barriers to cultural differences. I hope it’s the same for this foodie series.”
You can find more from both of the collections on Instagram. (via Present & Correct)
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Rain Szeto Renders Imaginative Scenarios in Intricately Detailed Ink and Watercolor Illustrations
In Rain Szeto’s intricately rendered fictional universe, people partake in work and pastimes surrounded by stacks of books, snacks, merchandise, and mementos. Her detailed illustrations (previously) portray the organized chaos of everyday activities in domestic spaces and in shops, cafes, and outdoor areas. Typically centered around a single character like a baker behind a counter or a figure carrying a pot of flowers, the scenes are filled with with quotidian objects, providing a lived-in feeling that brims with colorful energy.
Based in San Francisco, Szeto began working in comics during art school, which cemented her interest in narrative drawings. Specific details like the design of food packaging, an elaborate audio mixer setup, or pastries in a glass case suggest individual hobbies, jobs, and personalities distinctive enough that they could be mistaken for real places. Many of her recent pieces also feature feline friends that stride by confidently or curl up on cushions, including an orange tabby that could just as well be making the rounds to all of the inviting spaces.
Most of these works are on view through April 26 in Szeto’s solo exhibition Idle Moments Too at Giant Robot’s GR2 location in Los Angeles. Find more of her work on Instagram.
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An Endearing Fawn Searches for the Sun in an Enchanting Picture Book Illustrated by KAA
A stunning picture book written by Joanna McInerney and illustrated by KAA follows a small fawn who embarks on a beguiling journey in an effort to chase the sun. Traveling through lush forests, groves of cherry blossom trees, wintry hills, and sunflower fields, readers accompany the young deer on his poetic journey to stop and smell the flowers.
In The Fawn Who Chased the Sun, Ho Chi Minh-based duo Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien, a.k.a KAA, envision a whimsical world that translates into flourishing illustrations. Transporting readers into an exuberant environment, KAA incorporate various patterns inspired by William Morris along with surreal elements such as oversized flora and towering frogs.
The duo first creates detailed sketches, which Quang scans and hands over to Lien to begin the digital coloring process. Highlighting seasonal shifts through different palettes, they encourage the reader to enjoy the journey through multiple perspectives as the environment changes. “We have tried so many new perspectives and colors that we never used before in this book, and every experiment brought us joy while drawing it,” the illustrators tell Colossal.
You can follow more of KAA’s work on their Instagram, Behance, and website.
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Virginia Mori Twists Everyday Anxieties into Dreamlike Illustrations
Through pen and ink renderings, Virginia Mori continues her elegant and surreal interpretations of the prosaic. The Italian illustrator and animator (previously) gravitates toward the everyday and turns moments of relative simplicity into strange otherworldly scenes. Plucking a book off of a shelf reveals a figure lurking behind the volumes, for example, while an enormous detached head plummets to the earth where a team awaits with a cushion for a safe landing. Often featuring minimal palettes of pastel colors, the introspective works meld relatable feelings of anxiety, hesitation, and fear with dreamlike inventions.
Currently, Mori has works on view in a group exhibition through May 7 at the Seoul Museum and is preparing for another opening in September at Jiro Miura Gallery in Tokyo. Shop prints of her illustrations at Librera di Fursaglia and stay-hop, which also sells t-shirts, cards, and her latest book Feeling Bed. You can follow her projects and collaborations on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.