Mokulito from Japan to Venezuela – In a crisis context
Mokulito from Japan to Venezuela – In a crisis context
This article proposes reflections on the first conceptual and technical approach to the Mokulito as a contemporary and new printing system for the Venezuelan case, from a field research work based on documentation and systemic experimentation in the printmaking workshop with the technique, as well as, it raises reflections about the first findings obtained so far with this printing system within the current graph in my experience as a printmaker.
What is Mokulito?
The Mokulito, technique invented in the 70s by Japanese artist Ozaku Schisi arises from the need to find other ways to reproduce an image, as well as to achieve plastic-graphic values such as texture, grain, opacities, glazes and color in an original and simultaneous way, since this technique allows combining the formal and functional characteristics of traditional lithography, that is, luminosity, glazes, transparencies, detail and sharpness, with certain graphic qualities of the xylography when using wood for the elaboration of the matrices, giving it a unique and innovative character. Therefore, it constitutes a new printing technique, rich in graphic and expressive possibilities that until now has been little explored but that promises an almost infinite world of options.
This system is also emerging as a technique with a high graphic and operational potential by allowing the use of materials relatively accessible and alternative that allow the artist different expressive resources and high-quality reproduction to enrich his production.
Can I make it in Venezuela?
In the current Venezuelan context, some of these materials are not available, which leads to the necessary search for other implements of national production, or at least available in our market, to adapt the technique to local circumstances but without forgetting the concerns and communicative purposes of the graphic artist within the international context.
That is why the exploration of the Mokulito and its adaptation and incorporation into the national context is important given that it allows generating new alternatives and scope within contemporary printing, which enriches the possibilities of creation, expression and printing existing in the Venezuelan art field now, as well as what has been my artistic research as an artist and teacher, “Because, if we are going to see, no real artist has investigated anything other than himself.” (Palacios, 2003, p 98 ).
The use of this technique renews and complements the work I have developed so far with other techniques by allowing me to connect with contemporary procedures of experimental stamping, “Thus understood, artistic engraving is inseparable from experimentation” (Palacios, 2003, p 98) ; which also allows the integration between the Mokulito and other more conventional printing processes. It should be noted that this experimentation is completely valid and necessary for the configuration of a graphic language of its own, a style, which is why Mokulito is an area of great interest for me as a printmaker. “That’s why it’s always up to artists to modify and develop the expressive potential of each procedure.” (Palacios, 2003, p 99)
The Mokulito in a crisis context.
In the current Venezuelan context, the elaboration of many academic and artistic projects is extremely complex because of the alarming shortage of raw material, the high costs of the materials and the logistical difficulty to develop a project, particularly graphic, since the space requirements, machinery and tools turn out to be very particular, not very frequent in the Venezuelan academic context (apart from being highly expensive). However, the printmaking workshop of the Faculty of Art of the University of Los Andes (ULA), becomes a laboratory for the exploration, study, analysis and appropriation of many of the traditional techniques of printmaking and there’s where I start to develop my research project. Consequently, aspiring to execute an academic project about this Japanese technique – unknown to our context – becomes a kind of daring but also a window that opens up to new knowledge expressed in the findings during the work process and in the graphic and plastic results obtained as I advance in the execution of the project.
Mokulito printing process
At a technical level, this printing system works with sheets of wood veneer (plywood) to facilitate its implementation and reduce costs. The wood veneer like the one of cedrillo, linnet, meranti, among others (still available in the country), is processed to purify its surface and leave it free of impurities that would prevent the reception of grease and water that are the fundamental elements of lithography works.
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Midwest Birch Plywood is an AAA-quality, micro-cut plywood that is ideal for Mokulito.
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A patented processing technology results in a tolerance of +/- .002″ (smaller than a human hair).
The veneered wooden board emulates the behavior of calcareous stone lithography where the porosity of its surface determines the degree of sharpness, quality, and fidelity that the image will have, it will contain fatty areas with which the image is constructed and clean areas that will receive and house water as a natural fat blocker. Here is the chemical principle of printing fundamental for flat printing, areas of ink and white, or if you want, the area of grease and the clean area are arranged at the same level of height, trying to maintain the natural rejection of water and fat for the definition of the different areas of the composition made. The composition is made with different materials of fatty origin that are available, such as fatty pencils, wax crayons, liquid asphalt, among others.
As for the printing process, the veneered wood sheet is used as if it were a lithographic stone, so it is inked in the same way it is executed with traditional lithography, using ink-loaded rollers that expand the ink in the form of light and uniform layer, and at this point it is important to control the density and viscosity of the ink to avoid excessive loading or uncontrolled spreading on the matrix, which would end up ruining the image. The inking process is alternated with the passage of a sponge with water that will keep clean the white areas in the image, that is, the areas where fat was not received and that function as empty spaces in the composition.
The stamping is done by means of the traditional engraving press. This press (tórculo) consists of a metallic bed on which rests the matrix, the paper and the felt that protect them both. The metal roller that rotates the press will begin to press on the paper so that it yields and can come into contact with the plate and thus transfer the ink from the plate to the new support (printing paper), and finally, it will be removed from the plate.
Seems like lithography doesn’t it?
So far all the process described has a deep similarity with the process of traditional lithographic printing, however, it is important to note that the use of alternative materials for the execution of this technique makes the results unique, enrich the graphic finishes obtained, provide new finishing options, a relatively considerable number of images reproduction and a whole world of expressive possibilities while the final composition will be a fascinating dialogue between the texture, the grain and the warmth of the wood, with fidelity, complexity, and sobriety of lithography.
In this order of ideas, this research is just taking its first steps, is in an initial state of understanding and ownership of technical, conceptual and sensitive processes of new materials and processes. The essential thing is to rescue the searching spirit of the graphic artist who seeks to master a technique to turn it into his own language, configure it and load it with particular visual codes to communicate and reproduce images with their own aesthetic and conceptual purposes.
The printmaker can be a strange creature!
The contemporary printmaker is a researcher who struggles between history, technique, concept, and innovation to continue giving life to printmaking, a witness to the worldview of himself and, in particular, of the time in which he is born and to which he belongs. Without this permanent search, the graphic arts would be completely obsolete in the artistic scene, which guarantees and maintains its validity in time and the current plastic context is the permanent possibility of innovation and appropriation of its technical processes, that is, to find a new way of expressing and reproducing, a new discourse based on the vast world that precedes it within the printing systems and previous artistic impression, is to find one’s voice in the midst of the massive reproduction of commercial printmaking and perhaps reflect on what Walter Benjamin pointed out when talking about loss of the aura about an original.
Everything points to the fact that contemporary artistic graphics not only include elements in the temporal, conceptual or thematic order, but also the advancement of techniques, methods, and resources for obtaining matrices, prints and mixed works that expand the options of reproduction and graphic qualities. This permanent search is what generates new proposals, rich in subjectivity, graphic expression and aesthetic quality, current aspects within the current graphic arts and that are a significant contribution to the field of academic knowledge about the arts in today’s society, even in the complicated Venezuelan context of the current time.
This article was written by Edwin García Maldonado and all images copyright © EdwinMaldonado 2019
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