Exploring the Concept of Bisymmetry
Koichi Yamamoto, associate professor of printmaking, made the most of a professional development leave in spring of 2017, taking up three residencies in turn. At Double Dog Dare Studio, located on a mountainside above the town of Kalaheo on the Hawaiian island of Kaua`i, he created a series of intaglio prints titled Floating Architecture that were inspired by the forms of the boats moored along the coast. From there, he returned to the mainland for a stint as Artist-in-Residence at Joshua Tree National Park, outside Los Angeles. The desert landscape with its burnt orange rockeries and strange, spare trees inspired him to explore further the intersections of two- and three-dimensional form, creating a series of kites built from prints. Finally, he spent six weeks at Art Print Residence in Arenys de Munt, near Barcelona, and visited Marrakesh; the vibrant palette of the local architecture in these places influenced him to add hand-painted color to his monochrome prints. The results are densely constructed, powerful, mask-like images.
Yamamoto’s recent work explores the concept of bisymmetry. He embraces the theory that bisymmetrical imagery is aesthetically appealing to humans because of the inherent symmetry of the human face and form. In order to create as perfectly symmetrical a form as possible, he has developed an unusual technique.
He first engraves a copper plate using techniques that date back to the 16th century in Europe. After inking the finished plate, he folds a piece of gampi paper and prints one side with the intaglio plate. He then refolds the paper with the printed image on the inside and runs the paper through a press in order to transfer the image to the other half of the paper, a process called “ghost printing” or “second-generation transfer.” Through trial and error, Yamamoto determined he needed to engrave the plates more deeply than normal in order to have ample ink to create not only the first print, but also an equally rich transfer impression.
Yamamoto collages some of these prints together into larger compositions and enjoys exploring the unlimited possibilities of these combinations and expressions. Some he assembles into kites, imbuing them with kinetic energy. His experience with this form began in Japan, where he created kites using bamboo and paper. In 2014, he oversaw a collaborative project for the Southern Graphics Council International Conference in San Francisco, for which he led a workshop on making printed kites and a “flying portfolio.” This was the first time he made large-scale kites, and the form has continued to intrigue him.
Yamamoto attributes his interest in kites to his fascination with flight and the movement of air. Air flows in complex patterns all around us, but we cannot predict its movement and can only see or feel its effects. A printed image can create the illusion of three-dimensional form on paper. The kite form can allow us to see the movement of air that is normally invisible to the human eye.
“To share and to communicate requires a vehicle,” Yamamoto says. “My choice of vehicle is the kite, and my language is printmaking.”
Caption, featured image: Intaglio Gampi chine Cole on bamboo structured kite, Koichi Yamamoto