Biography - Peter MacMillan - Toriizaka Art

Peter MacMillan

Peter MacMillan is a prize-winning translator, scholar, poet, and artist. He was born and grew up in a part of the Irish countryside surrounded by more horses than people. He graduated first in his class from the National University of Ireland, University College Dublin, and then went on to take an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in English literature. He spent two years as a Visiting Fellow at Princeton, Columbia, and Oxford universities. MacMillan is currently a Visiting Professor at Kyorin University and also teaches at The University of Tokyo. A citizen of both Ireland and Britain, he has lived in Japan for twenty-five years and strives to be a bridge between Japan and the world. His artist name is Seisai.

In addition to creating woodblock prints, MacMillan is also a poet and translator. His translation, One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each (Hyakunin Isshu), was published in 2008, winning prizes in both Japan and the United States. He recently completed an English translation of the Tales of Ise (Ise Monogatari), to be published by Penguin in 2014. He has also published a collection of poetry, Admiring Fields.

MacMillan serves as a Councilor of the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan.

The Thirty-Six New Views of Mount Fuji prints and one of a kind originals by Peter MacMillan take their starting point from Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, a series of color woodblock prints that depict Mount Fuji from thirty-six different perspectives. The prints draw upon Hokusai’s motifs and those of other Western and Japanese artists, and juxtapose an idealized historical view of Mount Fuji and Japanese culture with the actual reality of contemporary society. The images constitute a social critique while simultaneously posing a series of questions related to sustainability in our society.

By comparing the often humorous and witty disparities between the original and the recomposed images, Seisai invites viewers to examine the differences between traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Edo-period Japan was actually a formidable consumer society, but it was also based on an impressive model of sustainability. By contrast, contemporary consumer society cares too little for sustainability, and its reckless use of the earth’s resources has been destroying our environment. The images are not just about Japan but rather the world in general.

These works are designed to encourage viewers to engage both aesthetically and intellectually with various issues. Many of the images are amusing and incorporate elements of play (asobi), a feature indispensable to traditional Japanese art.

Mount Fuji is a sacred mountain of cultural importance. It has been depicted widely in literature and art, since the seventh century. It is our hope that the Thirty-Six New Views of Mount Fuji will transmit cultural importance of this sacred mountain to people both in Japan and other countries.

The prints are mixed media, combining lithography, offset printing, hand-painting, and gold leaf applied by hand.

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