David Bowie Memorialized in Traditional Japanese Woodblock Prints

The East beck­ons me — Japan — but I’m a bit wor­ried that I’ll get too Zen there and my writ­ing will dry up. — David Bowie, 1980

David Bowie’s long­stand­ing fas­ci­na­tion with Japan per­vad­ed his work, becom­ing the gate­way through which many of his fans began to explore that country’s cul­tur­al tra­di­tions and aes­thet­ics.

Per­haps the entry point is design­er Kan­sai Yamamoto’s Zig­gy Star­dust togs, Yukio Mishima’s 1963 nov­el The Sailor Who Fell from Grace from the Sea—one of Bowie’s top 100 books—or the 1000s of images pho­tog­ra­ph­er Masayoshi Suki­ta cap­tured of the rock­er over a peri­od of four decades.

Maybe it was Aladdin Sane’s kabu­ki-like make­up or direc­tor Nag­isa Oshi­ma’s World War II dra­ma,  Mer­ry Christ­mas Mr. Lawrence, in which Bowie played a British offi­cer in a Japan­ese POW camp.

The recent release of two mod­ern ukiyo‑e wood­block prints fea­tur­ing the rock­er has caused such mass swoon­ing among legions of Japanophile Bowie fans, the rever­ber­a­tions may well be pow­er­ful enough to ring tem­ple bells in Kyoto.

For each print, artist Masu­mi Ishikawa casts Bowie as both him­self and an icon­ic Japan­ese fig­ure.

In the image at the top of the page, Bowie’s Aladdin Sane assumes the pose of the cen­tral char­ac­ter in Edo Peri­od artist Uta­gawa Kuniyoshi’s Kidô­maru and the Ten­gu, below.

The oth­er print relo­cates the dash­ing Bowie from Ter­ry O’Neill’s Dia­mond Dogs pub­lic­i­ty pho­tos to the realm of magi­cian Takeza­wa Toji, whose spin­ning top per­for­mances had the pow­er to sum­mon drag­ons, at least as depict­ed by Kuniyoshi.

The prints were ordered by the Ukiyo‑e Project, whose mis­sion is to por­tray today’s artists and pop icons on tra­di­tion­al wood­block prints. (Bowie fol­lows pre­vi­ous hon­orees Kiss and Iron Maid­en.)

The prints and the blocks from which the impres­sions were made will be on dis­play at BOOKMARC in Tokyo’s Omote­san­do neigh­bor­hood from June 23 to July 1.

via Spoon and Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

Spe­cial David Bowie Metro­Cards Get Released in New York City

The Peri­od­ic Table of David Bowie: A Visu­al­iza­tion of the Sem­i­nal Artist’s Influ­ence and Influ­ences

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er, Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and Bowie fan.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female char­ac­ters hits the lec­ture cir­cuit to set the record straight opens June 12 at The Tank in New York City. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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