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  Biography: Paul Binnie
 
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PAUL BINNIE

Born in 1967 Airthrey Castle, Scotland.

1985 - 1990 Studied at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art MA (Fine Art).

 

From 1990 until the spring of 1993 he lived in Paris where he worked mostly in oils and watercolours, painting figure subjects and occasional landscapes.

He began to collect Japanese Woodblock Prints in the late 1980s on a summer trip to Paris, and his extended stay in France allowed him to expand his collection and his knowledge of the subject. It was this interest in Japanese Prints along with a desire to understand the methods of their production that prompted him to move in March 1993 to Tokyo. He there sought training in the techniques of block print-making. Unable to enter the Yoshida studio, his first choice for training, due to the illness of Yoshida Toshi, he was advised to contact Seki Kenji. Kenji had been the head printer at Doi-Hangaten and Binnie worked with him for several years developing his own block printing style. He also made friends with woodblock artist Ralph Kiggell, who was studying at the Yoshida Studio at the time. There Paul Binnie met Toshi Yoshida, and made numerous visits to the Yoshida Studio to study the carving and printing procedures there.

 

In Tokyo. Paul Binnie lived in Sendagaya, a few streets away from the National Noh Theatre. He became absolutely fascinated by both Noh and Kabuki, and like 18th and 19th century Japanese woodblock artists he started making sketches of Kabuki and Noh actors behind the scenes. These sketches were used both for his subsequent print designs and for a vast array of oil paintings.


After almost 6 years in Japan Binnie moved to London in late 1998 and continued to make prints after a brief hiatus, as well as painting and drawing in a variety of media. He now travels to Japan regularly and exhibits his prints and paintings worldwide, often with galleries and dealers specialising in Japanese prints. He regularly participates in the CWAJ exhibition in Tokyo. This yearly show of contemporary prints started in 1955, and every print artist that mattered in Japan in the late 20th century has exhibited there. Paul's first appearance was in 1996, and he has returned on five subsequent occasions.

Paul Binnie is a very original, capable and versatile artist. He carves his own blocks and does the printing himself. He is also a successful painter and one of the most important representatives of the New Hanga movement.

In 1998 Paul Binnie returned to England and he became very productive indeed: woodblock prints, stencil prints, watercolours, etchings and oil paintings.
After a while his woodblock prints production took shape: different genres developed: landscapes, tattoo prints, bijin prints (prints of female beauties), Kabuki prints. There are times when he only produces bijin prints, then he has a “landscape period”, but in fact he is permanently busy.

It is difficult to exaggerate the impressive technical skill Paul has developed over the years: both in carving and in printing he is an absolute master. I was so lucky to witness his skill at work in 2004, when I commissioned a print “Engawa” in a very limited edition of 30 copies. In the summer of 2004 I visited him at his studio in Wimbledon. He had a few designs prepared, I chose one and together we discussed what colours and “special effects” would be used. The result was impressive, and it is hard to imagine the elation I felt when I had the 30 copies lying side by side at home.

Paul Binnie's perfectionism is evident everywhere: a good example is the design “Yamagata no Yamadera”, which was first published in March 1996. Now, nearly ten years later, Paul has re-worked it into a print that is similar (of course) but at the same time a lot better than the original version. Paul hates to throw away a good design.
One Japanese artist is Paul's absolute favourite: Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 – 1950), and he tries to collect good copies of his woodblock prints where he can find them. Though his own work is quite different from that of Hiroshi Yoshida, they share a mastery of the woodblock medium.
2007 saw the publication of the catalogue raisonné of his woodblock prints to date: Paul Binnie, A Dialogue with the Past , with essays by Dr. Kendall H. Brown, Paul Griffith and Akama Ryo, Professor at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, where a selection of his work was exhibited in November 2007. The book gives a wonderful overview of Paul's work, the photographs are absolutely brilliant, as are the texts.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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