Tanaka Ryohei is one of the most important contemporary etching artist in Japan. Born in 1933 in Takatsuki City (Osaka Prefecture), he studied etching techniques under Foruno Yoshio and began to exhibit in 1966 with the Japanese Print Association, quickly gaining notoriety.
His work has always dealt with the themes of old rural Japan, its wood and stone architecture, its landscape tradition and the stonework of Kyoto city. To the traditional wood-bock printing, Tanada always preferred the watercolours etching and his works display a variety of systems of representation rearranged from the Western tradition of perspective in order to render a perfect image of the chosen scene. In Tanaka images, you hardly find any person at all. Many houses appear (and actually are) deserted.
Unfolding these man-made wings, easily he glided up into the sky. Bathed with reasons light, human joy and sorrow sank away beneath his eyes. Over squalid towns letting irony and mockery fall, he soared into unobstructed space, heading straight for the sun. That with just such man-made wings, scorched by the sun’s radiance an ancient Greek had hurtled into the sea, dead. He’d seemed to have forgotten.
Excerpted from A Fool’s Life by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, translated from the Japanese by Will Petersen, with etchings by Tanaka Ryohei, A Mushinsha Book, Grossman Publishers, New York : 1970 (via: The Blue Lantern).
In 1970 Tyohei Tanaka illustrated Akutagawa Ryunosuke‘s novel ‘A fool’s life’, years after the tragic passing of its author (Modernist writer Akutagawa’s first story was 1915’s Rashomon, on which Akira Kurosawa based his 1950’s famous film).
For A Fool’s Life Tanaka made a dozen etchings, each one emblematic of the protagonist’s brooding solitude. At most, there are hints of human presence in these images, a concealed door, a group tombstones that appear to huddle together, placed at one end of long diagonal bracketed by tiny indeterminate pink flowers. (…) In the context of these stories, the pond in a field takes on the aspect of a black hole. (Jane Librizzi at The Blue Lantern)
The next five images come from ‘A fool’s life’:
Mandarins: Akutagawa Ryunosuke & Tanaka Ryohei
Tanaka Ryohei ou la nostalgie du Japon
Ryohei Tanaka: Painting studio, on Domus
Akutagawa Ryunosuke – A Fool’s Life, translated from the Japanese by Will Petersen, with etchingss by Tanaka Ryohei, new York, Grossman: 1970.
Akutagawa Ryunosuke – Mandarins, translated from the Japanese by Charles De Wolf, New York, Archipelago Books: 2007.