Paul Binnie, Sharaku Design, Japanese Tattoo


Original Japanese woodblock print. 

Artist: Paul Binnie (1967 – )
Title: Sharaku no giga (Sharaku’s Caricature)
Series: Edo Zumi Hyaku Shoku (A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo)
Date: 2011
Edition: 32/100
Published: by the artist
Dimensions: 43.3 × 31.1 cm


The print by Sharaku of Otani Oniji which forms the main tattoo design is one of the best-known prints of the enigmatic Sharaku, who only produced prints for a short time in 1794-5, but who has left us around 140 designs from that brief period. The unusual position of the hands in this print were the key to the dramatic, dynamic pose of the model, for though they represent the frozen action of the Kabuki stage, it could be the model is reacting to a loud noise or shock, and he is instinctively moving to protect himself. The similarity in the position of the hands of the tattoo and the live man is vital to this design. The small cartouche shows Ichikawa Ebizo, maybe one of the most striking faces in this group, and one which well deserves to be used as a caricature, and the seal here is Paul’s own self-caricature, made up of the letters of his name.

Paul Binnie

Blending traditional methods with a modern style, Paul Binnie is working mostly under the influence of Shin-hanga movement, founded by the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe (1885-1962). Shozaburo was aiming to renew declining Ukiyo-e tradition and break into foreign markets by commissioning new, young artists who would work within the old co-operated system, composed of the publisher, artist, engraver and printers. However, Paul makes his own prints from beginning to the end by himself, as was done by artists of another post-war movement: Sosaku hanga.

He mostly works in several subjects such as kabuki, tattoo, landscape and beauty prints. His original plan had been to stay in Japan less than he actually did but once he started to sell his kabuki prints, he decided to expand his technique more and has created works of this subject until 1998 in Japan. His interest in Japanese tattoo was born when he saw Yakuza, members of the Japanese mafia who traditionally have body tattoos, bathing for the first time in a sento (Japanese-style public bath). He is still working on a series of woodblock prints of this theme. Near the end of 1997, he began to do Japanese landscape prints and these became a huge success.

More Information
Print FormatDai-Oban
ArtistPaul Binnie
SubjectSamurai & Male, Tattoo Design, Contemporary
Dimensions43.3 × 31.1 cm
SeriesA Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo