Portrait of the Artist as a Nun

Nun Portrait

Portrait of the Artist as a Nun, Noboru Sawai, intaglio, woodblock and embossed print, 1990

Portrait of the Artist as a Nun was created by the use of a technique called intagliocombined with woodblock  relief printing.  Intaglio is a technique that is used to carve an image or design into a metal or stone plate thenmaking a print by inking the carved plate and pressing that onto paper.  The areas on the paper that have color have been printed separately from relief carved woodblocks to which pigments has have been applied.  The title suits this image well as we see the image of a face draped in the traditional habit of a Catholic nun.

On further looking at the print we see that the habit bears a strong resemblance to Mount Fuji.  Fuji is an image commonly noted in Japanese art and is seen to link this piece of art to its Japanese roots.  The colors chosen that surround the face in the middle may resemble that of the lava inside the volcanic Mount Fuji.  The design of the image is very geometric, however the face is very organic.  The colors used in the print draw the attention of the viewer to the face as well.  The detail in the center around the face is also much more dramatic than that of the rest of the painting.  The shape of the bib on the habit points upward toward the face, centering the idea of an artist inside not only a habit, but also relating that habit to a volcano that is erupting only for that person.  Sawai’s idea of religion is then compared to that of a volcanic eruption, and the expression on the face of the person shows discomfort, possibly related to the artist’s personal understanding of religion.  Since it is a depiction of a Catholic nun, this could also be a reflection of the artist’s feelings toward Western religions.

Justin Patrignani and Laura Moen

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Justin Patrignani / / Laura Moen