A glimpse into contemporary Japanese printmaking is currently being given at a temporary exhibition ongoing at the Hambis Municipal Printmaking Museum in Nicosia. Part of celebrations to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Beyond the Floating World will run until mid-October.

With a title evoking the rich tradition of Japanese Printmaking and more specifically the celebrated genre of Ukiyo-e, which depicts the fleeting and ephemeral floating world, this temporary exhibition aims to open a horizon beyond the floating world, by presenting the work of 13 contemporary Japanese printmakers.

“Japanese printmaking has a long and rich history,” explain the organisers, “which begins with the religious prints of the 13th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, the start of Japan’s Edo period, printmaking radically changed. Artists depicted ‘ukiyo’, the floating world. The word is charged with the Buddhist sense of a world without the permanence and the themes reflect the volatility of life as it unfolds before our eyes.

“Since the first works of the genre Ukiyo-e (‘e’ means image) in the 17th century,” they add, “artists tried to capture the feverish rhythm of a changing world that leans more and more towards the hedonistic enjoyment of ephemeral and fleeting daily pleasures. The varied subject matter comes from urban life and includes scenes of entertainment, sumo wrestling, famous Kabuki actors, the beautiful courtesans of the greenhouses as well as the popular bijinga (paintings of beautiful women) and shunga (erotic scenes.) The woodblock ‘Mokuhanga’ printmaking technique allowed for the cheap reproduction and dissemination of the works. At the end of the 19th-century, Ukiyo-e began to reflect the influence of Western artistic movements. In the 1830s, with the work of Hokusai and Hiroshige, meisho-e prints (pictures of famous places) reached unparalleled perfection.”

Using as a springboard this rich centuries-old tradition, samples of which are included in the museum’s permanent collection, and also keeping in mind the continuing evolution of contemporary Japanese printmaking, this temporary exhibition presents a selection of mostly experimental works, taking viewers on a poetic quest for the result of this rich legacy: the printmaking world of Japan today. The two worlds, of traditional and contemporary Japanese printmaking, are connected at the beginning of the exhibition with the display of two works by the great artist Hiroshige.

While they all stand out for their exceptional artistry, some follow faithfully on the path of local Mokuhanga technique, while others experiment with combinations of Western traditional and new techniques. Abstract or descriptive, their works move away from traditional themes and are now displayed in the heart of old Nicosia.

Beyond the Floating World

Contemporary Japanese printmaking exhibition with 13 participating artists. Until October 15. Hambis Municipal Printmaking Museum, Nicosia. Tuesday-Friday: 9am-3pm. Saturday:10am-2pm, 4pm-7pm. Tel: 22-496930