Paul Binnie (b. 1967) is a Scottish artist who belongs to the modern followers of the woodblock printing technique. The genres of his interest are yakusha-e (kabuki actor prints), fukeiga (landscape prints), and bijinga (pictures of beautiful women). Apart from woodblock printing, Paul Binnie works with a number of media such as stencil, etching, lithograph, graphite, ink, oil, pastel, and watercolor. In the current article, we'll examine one of his most popular sets of woodblock designs, A Hundred Shades Of Ink Of Edo, which Binnie created from 2004 to 2015.
Fig. 1. Paul Binnie, 2017 (Wikipedia.org)
Fig. 2. Comparison of contemporary world fashion by Binnie, 2015 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 3. Kabukicho (Tokyo's entertainment district); scholten-japanese-art.com
Fig. 4. Maiko In Kyoto (binniecatalogue.com)
Paul Binnie began his way in art by studying art history at the University of Edinburgh. Along with art history, he studied painting and etching at Edinburgh College of Art from 1985 to 1990. Having attained his master's degree, Binnie relocated from Edinburgh to Paris, where he worked as an art teacher at the Ecole du Louvre and the Atelier Hourde. The artist's enthusiasm for ukiyo-e emerged already in the years of studies in Edinburgh and urged him to collect prints. As time went on, the interest in Japanese printing tradition grew, and, in 1993, Binnie traveled to Tokyo to become a printmaker. Until the end of 1998, he lived in Tokyo and studied woodblock printing under the mentorship of Seki Kenji, master printer of Doi publisher. Binnie's fascination with kabuki and yakusha-e was caused by his location in the capital of Japan: the artist lived in Sendagaya, not far from the National Noh Theatre.
Fig. 5. Sleeping Woman, jigsaw woodblock, 2004 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 6. Sleeping Boy, 1997, jigsaw woodblock, 1997 (binniecatalogue.com)
In 1998, Binnie moved to London and opened his printing studio, where he specialized not only in kabuki prints but also in landscapes and bijinga, making references to well-known ukiyo-e oeuvres. In 2004, Binnie resumed the series of tattoo depictions that he started to work on in Japan. These images would compose the set A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo. In 2015, when the last image of the series was produced, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased the complete collection. The works of Paul Binnie are exhibited in Tokyo, Paris, New York, London, Hong Kong, Sweden, Scotland, and the Netherlands. The most recent work of the artist is the bijinga series Flowers of A Hundred Years, which he began in 2012.
Fig. 7a. Veranda, 2009 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 7b. Utamaro’s erotica (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig.7c. Utamaro, By the Mirror, 1802 (ukiyo-e.org)
Shunga Within Bijinga
The series consists of images of male and female nudes tattooed with iconic ukiyo-e depictions. One of Binnie's bijinga girls wears a tattoo of Utamaro's design from the Ehon Komachi Biki series depicting a man fingering his wife who does her hair in front of a mirror. Sometimes, Binnie joins two iconic designs in one tattoo, for instance, he uses two Hiroshige's prints Ōhashi atake no yūdachi (Sudden Shower Over Ōhashi Bridge and Atake) and Fukagawa Susaki Jūmantsubo (Plain near Fukagawa) where the bird is depicted. The same happens with Hokusai's waterfalls: Binnie combines Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki (Kirifuri Waterfall at Kurokami Mountain in Shimotsuke) with Washū Yoshino Yoshitsune uma arai no taki (The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed His Horse at Yoshino in Yamato Province). In other cases, Binnie uses fragments of prints: on the shoulders of two girls, you can recognize the works of Harunobu and Kiyonaga. Famous blue courtesans by Keisai Eisen were also paid an homage, as well as Kuniyoshi's Cats of Tokaido.
Fig. 8a. Alluring Figure (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 8b. Left: Paul Binnie; center: Hiroshige Sudden Shower Over Ōhashi Bridge and Atake, 1857 (scholten-japanese-art.com); right: Plain near Fukagawa, 1857 (Wikipedia.org)
Fig. 9a. Shower (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 9b. Paul Binnie, Waterfalls; center: Kirifuri Waterfall at Kurokami Mountain in Shimotsuke, ca. 1834 (Wikipedia.org);right: The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed His Horse at Yoshino in Yamato Province, ca. 1834 (Wikipedia.org)
Fig. 10a. Steam (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 10b. Left: Paul Binnie, Harunobu’s Bathtub; right: Harunobu, Two Women Bathing (tallengestore.com)
Fig. 11a. Twilight (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 11b. Left: Paul Binnie, Kiyonaga’s Pipe (binniecatalogue.com); right: Kiyonaga’s two women (pinterest.com)
Fig. 12a. Takashimada Hairstyle (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 12b. Left: Paul Binnie, Eisen’s Blueprint Pictures (binniecatalogue.com); right: Keisai Eisen Pictures of Modern Figures (Tosei sugata no utsushi-e), ca 1835 (scholten-japanese-art.com)
Fig. 13a. White Cat, 2004 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 13b. Left: Paul Binnie, Kuniyoshi’s Cats, 2004; right: Kuniyoshi, Cats of Tokaido Road, 1847 (scholten-japanese-art.com)
Here are some works of Paul Binnie in other media:
Fig. 14. Candlelight, Kappazuri stencil, 1994 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 15. Josephine Baker, graphite, 1991 (binniecatalogue.com)
Fig. 16. Brown Osamu, monochrome relief, 1994 (binniecatalogue.com)
Sources: Wikipedia.org; binniecatalogue.com; scholten-japanese-art.com; ukiyo-e.org
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