Tom Kristensen is a young printmaker from Australia. On this page he writes about his latest series 'Kaiju Manga' and the first print from this series titled 'Godzilla and the Fox'.
The woodblock print is ephemeral pop culture with a rich history. Topics of passing concern are illustrated in multiple copies for commercial purpose. Even the lifespan of Harunobu's beautiful calendar prints was understandably limited.
Most prints were produced to promote actors in seasonal Kabuki theatre productions. Others were issued to advertise restaurants, or were simply promotional material for merchants and shopkeepers.
Erotic Shunga is yet another example of disposable art. Great artists like Hokusai would also produce copybooks full of small concise illustrations intended as a guide for students.
In these books one finds multiple sketches of components needed to construct an exciting scene. Perhaps this populist appeal explains the kanji characters for this work, Manga, meaning both "involuntary picture" and "morally corrupt".
These books were the forerunners to the comic books and the Anime cartoons that are now so popular in Japan.
Woodblock prints and modern manga are full of themes that cater to popular taste. Symbols from Japanese folklore are everywhere. Popular historical scenes, heroes and poets abound. Beneath the surface action the poetic power of plants and animals illustrate deeper feelings.
The many spirits and monsters that inhabit the Japanese imagination provide some of the most striking images: there are the shape-shifting humanoid birds, the Tengu, there are long-necked ghosts, and there are foxes that transform into beautiful women.
Magical creatures of natural origin are known as Kaiju. The oversized dai-kaiju include giant snakes, frogs, rats, crabs, and octopus.
The use of metamorphosis and occult fantasy to reveal allegorical truth is widespread. In 1843 Kuniyoshi produced a popular satirical triptych of an enormous spider, flanked by a ghoulish army of animist characters, looming over the players of a board game.
This famous print was an illustration of a life and death battle, but also an attack on the controlling hand of the Shogunate.
Today kaiju are associated with B-grade monster films. In 1953, after the nuclear bombing and American occupation, postwar Japan reinvented King Kong as Godzilla, the supreme kaiju monster.
Godzilla is a seditious mutant, an amphibious fusion of Hollywood and Tokyo. Born half gorilla, half whale, the radioactive spawn of atomic testing, Godzilla rampages to avenge the perversion of his own creation. Godzilla is an icon of modern Japan.
Edited by Dieter Wanczura
A Japanese wrap-up of several Godzila movies from different centuries. 4.28 Minutes. Interesting to watch not only from a technical, but also from a cultural view. Thanks to Haythem Ben Slimen for sharing this with us.
Author: Dieter Wanczura