Comic Of The Month
Japanese Canadian artist’s whimsical artwork uses centuries-old techniques. Bookrabbit by Mariko Ando.
VANCOUVER — In the age of digital printing, Japanese Canadian artist Mariko Ando, prefers to explore techniques of the past in her printmaking artwork.
Ando’s artwork, detailed and intricate prints of whimsical, dark and playful nature scenes will be on full display in her new exhibition, Mind the Rambling Hares, at Visual Space Gallery in Vancouver, starting on April 17.
Ando uses a centuries-old technique of intaglio printmaking to create her unique and intricate designs.
“I respect the old style, using the metal plate and doing everything by hand, it’s so special. It takes time, but I really appreciate what it can do,” Ando tells Nikkei Voice in an interview.
Intaglio, or copper plate printing, is a labour intensive and delicate process. Ando first sketches an image on paper. She then covers a polished copper plate with a metal polish, and coats it with a material called “ground” which resists acid. Using a fine tool, Ando scratches the design onto the copperplate. The plate is then placed in an acid bath, where the scratched design is etched away. What is left is Ando’s drawing etched into the copperplate, where it can now be filled with ink and pressed onto paper.
This process allows Ando to make about 100 prints from each copperplate, but she chooses to only make about 20 or so. This way each print is limited and special unlike digital printing, which allows artists to make unlimited copies of their prints.
Ando began printmaking when she moved to Vancouver with her Canadian husband in 1999. The tools, techniques and chemicals used for intaglio printmaking were all in English, which Ando could not understand when she first arrived in Canada.
“When I came to [Canada], all my career was in Japan. I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t have any connections here, I felt like nobody. And I always wanted to do print making,” said Ando.
She found a studio in Granville Island, called Malaspina Printmakers Society, where some Japanese artists were also members. She studied with studio technician Shinsuke Minegishi, who teaches printmaking at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Today, Ando still uses Malaspina Printmakers’ studios, and it has become a place where she has built a community for herself.
“The printmaking just made me who I am,” says Ando.
Living in Vancouver has been a major influence on Ando’s artwork. All of her work is deeply rooted in themes of nature, inspired by the forests, mountains and beaches of Vancouver. Every morning, Ando takes long walks in the forest with her dog, which makes her feel calm and lets her imagination run wild.
Ando’s prints display fantastical elements, with animals and especially rabbits and hares, with human-like mannerisms. They deeply evoke memories of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Ando says she was drawn to drawing rabbits, not just as cute pets but because they are quiet, quick and mysterious. Ando says she hopes people who see her artwork are reminded of their imagination and the magical stories they loved as children.
“I just want to make [people] smile because there are so many awful things in this world right now but I want to let them forget that when they [see] my show,” said Ando. “Especially adults who are forgetting their imagination from when they were children. I want to let them remember [what it was like] when they were children.”
Mariko Ando’s exhibition, Mind the Rambling Hares, will be at Visual Space Gallery in Vancouver from April 17 to May 2.