“Ukiyo-e Heroes is a parody art project” that traces back “the origins of modern Japanese game culture!”
The term Ukiyo-e was coined in 1661 by novelist ASAY RIOI and it means “the floating or temporal world”; it depicts images that illustrate urban life. “Ukiyo” is the pop culture movement of old Japan, and “e” means pictures. This tradition is still part of Japan’s contemporary life and is teeming with vibrant colors and creativity.
The Ukiyo-e incorporates a multitude of genres, like satire, horror, tragedy and romance, where one can find a diversity of heroes, monsters and villains, or motifs like holy swords, invulnerable swords or magic spells; all these elements are perceptible in Japan’s game industry.
Jed has lived for 2 years in Tokyo, where he learned how to speak Japanese at about a 4-year-old level and he sees himself as a japanophile and a nerd who is passionate about games.
This is part of Ukiyo-e Heroes story: “I knew my visual ideas could be produced as digitally printed posters, but I didn’t want to stop there ― I also wanted to create actual woodblock prints. So I contacted my friend Dave Bull in Tokyo, to see what advice he could offer. I was in luck. Dave was so excited about my designs, he immediately offered to make a print of one. He jumped right in and began work.”
His background as an illustrator and his passions enabled him to create 12 brilliant woodblock prints. He had tremendous help from David Bull, who has mastered the technique of woodcut, by studying and learning this craft for over 30 years in “The Land of the Rising Sun”. He is still residing in Japan and he’s currently training younger people.
For each color that appears in Jed’s designs, a new woodblock must be carved, by cutting the wood away, so that the drawings outline becomes visible. This technique provides a wider range of vivid colors, glazes and transparency by using water-based inks ― as opposed to western woodcut, which often uses oil-based inks.
Iconic and classic video games that are part of the modern pop culture have merged with traditional art, to give birth to a unique vision. The original clothes that the characters wore have been replaced with Japanese medieval outfits, but the essence of each character still stands. We are able to recognize games like: Mario Cart, Kirby’s Adventure, Castlevania, Donkey Kong, Starfox, Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Metroid [Samus Aran], Megaman, Street Fighter etc.
Dave and Jed’s artworks were exhibited at “GALLERY NUCLEUS”, Los Angeles, U.S.A., one of the most important galleries that focus on pop-culture.
If you are infatuated with classic games and with the Nippon culture, you will surely appreciate the artwork and the attention to details that is present in this project.
Project Introduction by Ioana Balcan published in Otaku: Sapporo (2012)