The GYOTAKU (GYO: fish; TAKU: print, trace) is an original Japanese art which shows, through two different methods, the image of a fish by printing it on paper or silk.
Reproducing memories on light support in an ancient tradition in Asia. China, a land of great discoveries,never ceases to surprise the occidentals. At the beginning of the 20th century the Diamond Sutra was discovered in TOUEN-HOUANG (Turkestan). This document, dated from the year 868 ad,is 4,8 meters long.
The method which consisted in covering a graved stone with ink and applying the paper on its surface is the most ancient printing process discovered, showing an unversed print. The Diamond of Sutra is a lot more recent and can be see at the British Museum. The first of a long tradition, this technique has developed the beginning of GYOTAKU which allows the detailed representation of a model. It is very difficult to determine when this art really started in Japan.
The two most ancient example known, are dated from 1862 at the EDO era. they represent 2 giftheads; both fish symbolise joy. Theses pieces were created by a samurai warrior (BUSHI) named NAOTSUNA UJIIE and are kept at the HONMA Museum in SAKATA, the regional center of YAMAGATA (Japan).
Two methods are used to produce a GYOTAKU.
The first, using black ink, on Japanese paper (WASHI) produces reversed image. Originally, this method was used to keep a record of the exceptional catches and was accompanied by a small text giving the name and weight of the fish as well as where it was caught. Even poems where written about them. The proud fisherman would sometimes place the GYOTAKU in the fish shop. The fish is cleaned with salt or vinegar according to the provenance - fresh or water sea. The ink must be applied from the head towards the tail and the paper is then placed on the model and smoothed over with the hands. Finally the paper is slowly removed and the fish-print remains. The artist has to fill in the eye detail with a brush. Demonstration.
The second, by KOYOO INADA, appeared in 1948. This was the beginning of the artistic representation on a much finer support, silk. The introduction of colors brought in a new life to this art which was still at an experimental stage. The use of silk was ideal because of its fibers. The actual application is indirect, that is to say, the colors are applied on the silk by transparency and details are added according to the artist desire. This method has to be mastered as each piece of work holds the secret that the teacher transmit to his pupil with the specific style of the author. The composition is accompanied by a text which includes the poetic dimension.
The GYOTAKU remains a marginal art and is only produced and shown at rare occasions.