The Kyoto Calligraphy Lessons: printmaking by Nicholas Hill

Loading Events

The Kyoto Calligraphy Lessons: printmaking by Nicholas Hill
on view at Dublin Arts Council
7125 Riverside Dr., Dublin, Ohio
Aug. 4 – Sept. 11, 2020
Free of charge

This compelling series of cyanotype images by Granville, Ohio artist Nicholas Hill explores ideas of place, visual associations and memory using drawing, printmaking, and photographic techniques to create graphic compositions that reflect Japanese script and landscape. Several series are included in the exhibition, including a series of panels inspired by a calligraphy lesson book found by the artist in Kyoto, Japan and the traditional Japanese dying technique, aizome.

In-person appointments are available Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-3:30pm and on Second Saturdays from 11am-2pm. Guests can schedule their visit online at or by calling 614-889-7444.

Statement from the artist:


Travel plays an important role in my studio work. Research about places, their history and culture, and then exploring those places first hand is my approach to developing work.

I use photography, drawing and journal notes to gather my responses to new environments. In spite of a planned approach to studio work, I also know that “surprise“ elements will come to play in the work. In the case of travel to Tokyo and Kyoto, I found that calligraphy, in its various forms and locations, became a central element in my work. Having no knowledge of Japanese calligraphy, my response is a purely visual reaction. The gestural marks and the spaces between those marks make dramatic statements that offer open-ended narratives.

This exhibition includes several series of work created in response to my experiences in Japan. The series entitled “Kyoto Calligraphy Lessons” employees loosely painted cyanotype chemicals as one form of gestural mark. Embedded in those marks, the viewer finds imagery and text that I discovered, photographed or collected during my travels. The embedded imagery includes trees and other organic forms, urban architecture, postage stamps, fabric patterns and myriad other elements that offer a dense visual, historical and cultural montage. The choice of cyanotype, a 19th-century photographic process, was prompted by the rich blue color that is produced. It is comparable to the blue that is achieved in the traditional Japanese dyeing technique, aizome.

The proportions of the 2‘ x 3‘ panels echo the individual panels of traditional Japanese screens. When exhibiting this series, I enjoy the process of showing the panels in various combinations. At times, they have been shown as single panels with wide spaces between them. Other times they have been shown as diptychs or pairs, and they have also been shown as triptychs or three- part panels. These variations allow the work to be “new“ each time it is shown. The process also allows a specific venue to dictate the placement of panels.

Another series of prints in the exhibition is entitled “Broken Reeds.” Works in this series incorporate a variety of techniques including cyanotype, lithography and encaustic.

While walking through a park in Tokyo, I came upon a calm pond filled with dead reeds. Some reeds were bent, broken and poking through the tranquil surface of the pond. Combined with their reflections, they created elegant “found” calligraphic marks. In some of these prints, I added ink and brush drawings of plant forms. The drawings were done with bamboo brush and ink, another traditional Japanese technique.

The series of small encaustic print- paintings is the newest body of work in the exhibition. The tactile quality of Japanese textiles, baskets and other handmade objects prompted the creation of these pieces. I wanted the images to have surfaces that were translucent and textural. The imagery in the series alludes to nature: trees, leave, branches and reeds. In some of the encaustic pieces one will see a division of the space that also hints at Japanese screen panels.

The series “ Tokaido Shinkansen: 18 views of Mount Fuji from a Bullet Train at 150 mph” has a very long title and a somewhat different approach to Japanese cultural influences.

This series of cyanotypes incorporates actual photographs that I took while riding on the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. The photographs were combined with drawings that were made after the fact.

As the train sped along, I took dozens of photographs. At several intervals, I saw Mount Fuji in the distance. When I printed the images, the forms of the mountain were indistinct; so I made drawings of Mount Fuji and superimposed them onto the photographs.

The series title alludes to the famous series of woodcuts by Japanese artist, Hokusai, entitled ”Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.”

The cyanotypes incorporate encaustic, a hot wax painting medium. The translucent quality of the wax seems to encapsulate the images, stopping and holding them in time and space.

Experience is always seasoned by the passage of time and the subjective role of memory. In my work, I aim to give voice to this subjectivity. I believe that memories, as inaccurate as they may be, carry a kernel of truth that transcends time and place.

Pictured: Triptych VI, detail, cyanotypes. Panels 22×60″, triptychs 66×60″ by Nicholas Hill, 2014

Please enjoy the videos below for a virtual artist’s talk and gallery visit.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Go to Top