Platinum Printing with Japanese Papers
November 28, 2013
Following on from an earlier post where we discussed the differences between printing with platinum and palladium on watercolour and printmaking paper as well as highlighting the exquisite prints of Takeshi Shikama,I thought I write a bit more about my experience using Japanese papers.
The majority of artists that contact our studio are looking to create prints that have a unique look/signature to them when compared to any other photographic prints. For certain images using Japanese papers can help achieve this. When printing in platinum and palladium some printers tend to stick to one paper and use it for every project. I find this approach too limiting. One of the advantages of the platinum printing process is that you can use a variety of papers, of course there are many papers that don’t work with platinum straight ‘out of the box’, however with the correct pre-treatment they can be made to work.
Several projects we are currently working on, which will be highlighted in upcoming posts, use different types of Japanese paper. To give a little background, traditionally made Japanese papers or ‘washi’ have a number of excellent properties for printing with, including their tactile qualities,translucency, warmth, strength and are truly acid-free if they are unbleached and unsized. (Examples of Japanese printed papers exist in perfect condition from a 1000 years ago.)
The three main Japanese papers used in the art world today come from the inner barks of three plants – kozo, mitsumata and gampi (although other fibres are sometimes mixed in with the other fibres for decorative effect. )
Kozo is the most widely used fibre, found in 90% of all sheets produced. It is the fibre processed from the inside of the bark of the mulberry tree, this is why it is often called mulberry paper and is found in the central-western areas of Japan and the prefectures north of Tokyo. The fibre is long, flexible and strong.
Mitsumata takes longer to grow and is thus a more expensive paper. It is indigenous to Japan and is also grown as a crop. It is the most recently discovered of the three fibres and is hardier than Gampi, although it does belong to the same family. It mainly grows in Shikoku and central Japan particularly on the north-facing slopes of mountain and valleys.
Gampi was the earliest used Japanese paper and is considered to be the noblest fibre, noted for its richness and longevity. It has an exquisite natural sheen, and is often made into very thin tissues. Gampi has a natural ‘sized’ finish which does not bleed when written or painted on.
For platinum printing Kozo and Gampi are the most commonly used and below shows some examples from our studio. Prices for each sheet range from £2 – £20+ depending on whether they are machine-made or made by hand and dimensions and weights vary.
Whilst at Paris Photo this year I viewed a number of platinum prints on Japanese papers including those created by Gregor Törzs that were on show at the Bernheimer fine art photography stand. He prints with both Gampi and Kozo and examples are shown below. The print on Gampi really had a unique look and feel to it and ilustates how one can enhance and add character to an image by using Japanese papers with the platinum printing process.
With many Japanese papers being thin and delicate different coating and processing techniques need to be learnt and mastered. The video below highlights some of these as well as the physical qualities Gampi paper has. The platinum prints were created for the artist Luis Gonzalez by the gallery Cardozo Fine Art.
Testing new papers like Kozo and Gampi can be time consuming and costly however the reward of a unique fine platinum print is worth all the effort in the end.