top of page

Why am I Making 99 Woodcuts? (2/2)

Updated: May 2, 2022

This is Part II of "Why am I Making 99 Woodcuts”? Please click here for Part I.




In the last blog post, I talked about how my research of Chinese modern propaganda posters led me down the rabbit hole of woodcuts. In the end, I took the New Woodcut Movement in 1930 China as a point of departure for my works.


China had been using woodcuts for over 1000 years, mainly as religious text and novel illustrations or folk holiday decoration. These were printed on inexpensive paper. The process was streamlined—the designer, carver and printer were three different people. They were produced in factory-style.



The world's very first woodcut, the Diamond Sutra from Tang Dynasty China, AD 868 (© British Library)

Typical Chinese New Year woodcut

Writer and scholar Lu Xun encouraged Chinese artists to adopt woodcuts, an inexpensive and convenient medium (one you can easily travel and work with in poor conditions) as artists, not as craftsmen.

Lu Xun in the style of modern propaganda poster

Fun note: if you haven't read his novellas "The True Story of Ah Q" and "A Madman's Diary", you should rush out and get a copy now. I remember being fascinated by Ah Q at the age of 13.


OK, back to woodcuts. What does that actually mean? According to Lu, craftsmen were merely copying. They were only getting their job done. They didn't have a burning message for the world. They didn't want to change the world. They didn't want to save the world. Artists clearly did.


That means an artist would have a strong message to deliver with his (oh yes, only his) art, and that the same artist would design, carve and print the woodcut. The elaborate painting set-up was replaced by literally a knife and a piece of wood. So he could easily travel to war zones or impoverished neighbourhoods.


In August 1931, Lu Xun invited Japanese artist Uchiyama Kakechi to conduct the very first historic woodcut demonstration in China.



The very first artist artist woodcut workshop in China with Uchiyama Kakechi

My pupils dilated reading this! This works for Polluta on multiple levels. Lu Xun’s intention to glorify the working class perfectly mirrors my intention to glorify Polluta!


My Polluta woodblock


During a long research period, it is often clear to the artist when the eureka moment hits. Jackpot! All the loose ends wiggle together to form coherent and holistic connections. The artist no longer feels like there are burning unanswered questions. At this point, it is time to move on to the next stage.


Production!



My Polluta woodblock


Just to recap, my research process informed and thus influenced some artistic choices:


· I decided to only use a monochromic palette to mirror the monochromatic and contrasty style of the historic woodcuts.

· It was a no-brainer to use oil-based ink because that’s what the New Woodcut Movement artists used. Think of the connotation to use a European art material when China was closed off to the rest of the world.

· I would include ridiculously optimistic text to glorify Polluta to parallel the slogans on the historical prints.



My Polluta woodblock

However, to maintain my own artistic integrity and personality, I also made some choices:

original cloud-dragon rice paper

· I insisted on using my signature paper: cloud dragon handmade rice paper. This is handmade bamboo rice paper from China’s Anhui province. I have now been using this paper for 8 years.

· The imagery would be more fantastical rather than realistic.

· I would find all excuses to depict the fantastic animals residing at Polluta.




In the next post, I will talk about the (very long and ongoing) journey after I decided to embark on this body of works.


If you have enjoyed this post, leave a comment and let me know! I would love to hear from you! You can also enjoy more of my Polluta woodcuts here.


✵✶✺

Love what you are seeing? Make sure you sign up for my artistic love notes where I share VIP invitations to future events and exhibitions, exclusive stories, launch specials, and new art updates!.


Plus, I give away a piece of art with every love note I send out. Yes, you heard me right. That's over 30 pieces of art every year! Only to my most loyal fans. Get it now!



My Polluta woodblocks

8 comments

Recent Posts

See All

8 Comments


Guest
Mar 03, 2022

Michelle Kuen

Wood block prints


By using woodblock printing Michelle Kuen has become a master of her art. She knows the history and is able to understand how and why the imagery developed as it did. She extends that deep attachment for her chosen creative technique buy incorporating ancient philosophy and folk tales into her own new mythology. That sharp intelligence like the tools she uses in making her woodblocks means her art is much more than an intellectual exercise. It comes from both head and heart. Full of soul and beautifully crafted with the addition of a jazz like sense of improvisation, her work is absolutely unique.

Norman

Like
Michelle Fung
Michelle Fung
Mar 03, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Norman for such a beautiful comment! I am so glad you enjoy the woodcut prints!

Like

j.yopp.jr
j.yopp.jr
Feb 22, 2022

Yes, your view is quite valid. However, there IS a difference between Art & Science. For one, Art is quite a SUBJECTIVE endeavour, whereas Science is necessarily an OBJECTIVE endeavour. The ”Scientific Method”, which dictates the acceptance of amy and all factual pronouncements regarding our natural world, has strict rules/procedures that must be followed for all scientific research claims. Scientists are trained to first pose a question of interest and then perform research allowing a hypothesis to be proposed. Experimentation follows, in order to collect data supporting the hypothesis. It is only then, and after the scrutiny of peer review and verification, can the hypothesis be accepted as a factual and reproducible observation of the natural world. While you…


Like
Michelle Fung
Michelle Fung
Feb 23, 2022
Replying to

Wow that was an eloquent observation. I had to sleep on it. My scientific career halted at Biology 10, so I am not in any position to comment on science. I have always thought of higher knowledge on the same levelled plains, but you have convinced me otherwise.


This will be something for me to sleep on for the next ten years.

Like

Guest
Feb 22, 2022

really love your creative woodcut artwork. the woodblocks are so beautiful and amazing. Love to know more about your artworks….so please keep sharing!


vt

Like
Michelle Fung
Michelle Fung
Feb 22, 2022
Replying to

Thank you so much! xoxo


Like

j.yopp.jr
j.yopp.jr
Feb 22, 2022

For you, the artist, ART is a SCIENCE. For me, a molecular biologist, SCIENCE is an ART, the art of supreme creation. I've no doubt you see it both ways as well. Your story of research to feed and generate your creative ideas is quite fascinating. The rungs on the ladder(s) toward creativity certainly serve the creator's purpose. As wonderful as wood block prints are, the carvings themselves must be greatly cherished too. Wielding the brush, pen, pencil, and knife equally to generate beautiful art is, in my opinion, a Godly skill to be perceived and appreciated by all. To Polluta, and beyond!!!

JYj

Like
Michelle Fung
Michelle Fung
Feb 22, 2022
Replying to

You leave the most thoughtful comments! I don't think of science as art or art as science. I think all disciplines, on their highest level, are art.


Art just means deliberate, thoughtful and trained experimentation and expressions.

Like
bottom of page