Paul Binnie, Yoshitoshi Design, Japanese Tattoo


Original Japanese woodblock print. 

Artist: Paul Binnie (1967 – )
Title: Yoshitoshi no Bakemono (Yoshitoshi’s Ghosts)
Series: Edo Zumi Hyaku Shoku (A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo)
Date: 2004
Edition: 76/100
Published: by the artist
Dimensions: 29.1 × 42.8 cm


The Yoshitoshi print plays a sort of joke, as it shows the moment after a famous design by him, as it might be imagined. The large tattoo on the back is derived from Moonlight over Mount Yoshino of 1886, one of the artist’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon series, where a court lady, Iga no Tsubone, chastises the ghost of Kiyotaka for haunting the emperor.


In this tattoo, we see what might have happened as a result, while the model’s leg is tattooed with the demon Ibaraki, who moments before appeared in the 1889 print from the Thirty-Six Ghosts and Demons series, gripping Sadanobu’s sword-hilt, but who here has lost its arm. Both of these dramatic and bloody images connect with Yoshitoshi’s own love of gory imagery in his work, but the rising smoke from the incense burner reminds us of Yugiri, Genji’s Lover in the Hundred Aspects print of 1886, which shows a more poetic side to the Meiji artist, and here the smoke-spirit is rendered in white lacquer.
The cartouche illustration is drawn from a print of 1865 called the Greedy Hag, from the Tale of the Tongue-Cut Sparrow, and in this print the seal is based on the disfigured, skull-like head of Oiwa, one of the most chilling ghost stories in Kabuki.

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
Dimensions29.1 × 42.8 cm
SeriesA Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo