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DSC_1236ROver the course of the past couple years, we have seen 3D printing used by many artists to create incredible works that would not have been possible without this modern-day technology. Browsing websites such as Shapeways and Etsy, one will find all sorts of unique 3D printed art pieces such as jewelry, sculptures, and household accessories. Many varieties of art have come about thanks to 3D printing. For one Japanese artist, named Shusuke Osanai, 3D printing was a way in which traditional Japanese art could be brought to life in a way in which it never could have been previously.

Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) is a type of art which really flourished in Japan between the early 1600s and mid- to late 1800s. It is a particular genre that featured paintings and woodblock prints, depicting anything from sumo wrestlers to pretty women, historical scenes, travel landscapes, flower designs, and erotica, among other things. The ukiyo-e paintings and wood-workings were created to portray the hedonistic lifestyle of the merchant class of Japan, who suddenly found themselves the beneficiaries of Toyko’s rapid growth in the 17th century. They were suddenly able to afford many new indulgences, many of which are depicted in ukiyo-e artwork.

3D printed prior to being covered in paper.

3D printed prior to being covered in paper.

As part of the Hokusai Manga Inspired Exhibition at Tokyo Designers Week 2014, artist Shusuke Osanai was on hand to display a piece that combined traditional ukiyo-e with modern day 3D printing technology. The work, which was inspired by world renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai, was quite the masterpiece, attracting plenty of attention from show attendees.

“Themed on the idea to create ukiyo-e into 3D, these 3D character sculptures were printed keeping the Japanese essence,” Osanai tells 3DPrint.com. “It was first made into 3D data using Maya and Zbrush. The data was then transferred to an UP Plus 2 3D Printer and printed using mostly ABS.”

The sculpture was divided into 45 separate pieces, and about 40 Japanese sword models, before being 3D printed. The final sculpture, which measured approximately 43cm in height, was assembled piece by piece and then covered with traditional Japanese paper, in order to give it a genuine ukiyo-e look.

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“I wanted to use Japanese paper from when Katsushika Hokusai lived,” Osanai explained. “So, books from around the Edo period (1800s) were purchased. Pages with letters were torn and glued on the rocks, and the surrounding swords. The reason why it looks so old is because it actually is about 200 years old.”

DSC_1232ROnce the paper was adhered to the 3D printed sculpture, details and textures were drawn on the faces, using Indian ink and brushes. Osanai used a Kasure technique, which is an intentionally streaky brush stroke common in Japanese calligraphy, to express a “bold and powerful stroke with the ink.”

The method of gluing Japanese paper onto 3D objects has been around in Japan and other countries for centuries, but Osanai combined this technique with modern 3D printing to create a work of art like none other.

“By using the latest 3D printing techniques [in combination with this] very traditional technique, along with new materials and traditional materials, modern characters and traditional characters, this work unites the past and the present,” Osanai told 3DPrint.com

That it certainly does. 3D printing laid the foundation for a work of art that appears as though it may have been created some 200 years ago.

What do you think about Osanai’s incredibly unique take on ukiyo-e art? Do you think other artists will try and replicate his work? Discuss in the 3D Printed Ukiyo-e Art forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out some more photos below.

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