by BRYCE KANBARA
OF COURSE, the first thing we feel when looking at one of George Raab’s prints is a longing for our own, solitary, encounters with this country’s natural wilderness. The softened, hand-applied colours and the aquatint process infuse the scenes with nostalgia — not sentimentally, but in a way that perhaps persuades us that there is importance in reminders of where we have deeply experienced tranquility.
The photographic base in the prints is recognizable by their compositions (they look as if they were framed through a viewfinder) and by the modulated range of tones that spread with mechanical precision over the rocks, trees, water. The gracious camera lens encompasses everything in its field of vision and allows the artist to begin his images with total complexity. This is a feature that alleviates the need for him to organize the visual elements and render them himself. Raab’s views are mostly frontal. The strongest do not include sky or much sky, they bring us close to the ground, and make us want to inspect details.
Photography is integral to Raab’s process of making art. There is no flinch in him about that fact. If we are oblivious of how the prints are done, he makes us quickly mindful of the photographer’s role in them. His compositions look camera-sought and selected; they make us think we are looking at them through a camera from a canoe, from a river hank, from the edge of a field or woods. We are situated in front of them, not in them. In some, there are shadows cast by trees which are outside the camera frame. The foreground shadows suggest, too, the presence of the photographer. They adumbrate to us the significance of photography in our eventual understanding of what Raab is doing.
The prints reveal Raab’s committed sensitivity to the natural environment, but as photographs alone they would be conventional. Some of them bear charming, though naive, titles such as, “A Good Place to Get Stuck”, “Rhapsody in Milkweed” (Pictured above) , “Frog City”, which are reminiscent of titles used by nature photographers. By posing a seemingly simple premise for his subject matter, he disarms and primes us for an engagement with the high sophistication of his images beyond the photographic.
Raab often starts by altering the images on the photographic negatives; he scratches them, and cuts and assembles pieces from different frames. He can control the exposure of the image onto the photosensitized metal plate. After the plate is etched in an acid bath, he works on it by etching additional, drawn lines and areas of tonal gradation through the aquatint method. The plate undergoes the repeated scraping and burnishing of bitten lines, and the careful etching-in of new ones. Here is where Raab’s vision and technical mastery achieve amazing consummation. We get past a kind of viewers’ “gaze-lag” and experience another dimension in the work. We see the agitated quality of the printed intaglio line, the enhanced (artificial?) hues … the certain, anxious pull of “form” from “subject”.
The shock of pleasure Raab feels when he is startled by the “picturesque” in the landscape is different from the one he experiences when he peels the dampened paper from the inked plate. The print springs forward as glistening ink on a white surface. His subsequent manipulations of the image by obliterating portions of the etched lines, and through colour augmentation are governed by distinctly other urges than wanting to capture a heightened moment in the wilderness. The incongruity of the initial photographic act with the intuitive and exhaustive studio-working of the image creates mild and satisfying tensions.
The potential for an abstract reading of some of his most intriguing prints (for example, “Water Clump”, pictured above ) is sharply thwarted by the very abstraction they aspire to. Curiously, as in Monet’s “Water Lilies”, they are abstracted to the point where, rather than detaching themselves from the source objects, they become symbols of them, which even more compellingly evoke in us sensations of the real thing. In its abstracted state, “Water Clump” seems to possess textures more tangibly sodden, and smells more pungent of stagnant water and decaying flora, than could be possible in any realistic rendering. Examples of this phenomenon, in simpler form, are the thickly painted apples in dense, green trees found in children’s art. The depiction of the fruit as impossibly huge, red and round, induce in us the smell and feel of an actual autumn orchard.
Raab’s most provocative works beckon us towards our familiar interactions with landscape and with art, then confront us with fresh ways to think and feel about them.
From the exhibition catalogue produced in conjunction with the exhibition “Out-Side-In”, a 3-person show (Jennifer Dickson, Doug Kirton, George Raab) at the Burlington Cultural Centre, Burlington, Ontario.
by KIM KISER
Issue of ‘Wildlife Art Magazine’
GEORGE RAAB LIKES TO START HIS DAYS WALKING through the woods near his Millbrook, Ontario, home and studio. Following the paths that cut through cedar groves and meander along Baxter Creek, he finds his so-lace, his inspiration. “its where I feel happy to he alive,” says the soft-spoken printmaker.
That sense of tranquility comes across in his work. When looking at Raab’s etchings of wilderness landscapes, one can almost hear the water trickling over the rocks in a steam, the whispered music of the wind passing through a glade of trees.
“There is a poetic quality to [his art] almost romantic at times, and that appeals to people,” says Illi-Maria Tamplin, director and curator of the Art Gallery of Peterborough in Peterborough, Ontario the gallery, currently has two of Raab’s etchings hanging including River of Dreams , a dark, almost ethereal portrayal of a stream at daybreak.
Raab’s work is unique not only because of his interpretation of nature but, also, his ability to combine photography, intaglio printmaking and watercolor painting. “Each has its own voice and makes its own statement,” he says. The photographs allow Raab to capture moments in time and work representationally. Intaglio printmaking techniques give tonal and textural qualities to the images, and by adding a watercolor wash, the artist can put his personal stamp on his prints.
Raab, who works out of a converted horse barn, uses scenes from such well-known sites as Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Yosemite national parks, as well as the wilderness near his home, as the basis for his etchings. “He gets to know the details of the landscape, and brings that into his work,” says Tamplin.
Attention to detail has earned the printmaker awards and recognition in Canada, the United States, Colombia, China and elsewhere around the world.
Tradition Meets Technology
Raab got the idea for marrying photography and intaglio printmaking in the mid-1970s, when he sold photo silkscreen prints of cottages near Bancroft. (It was one of many jobs he held—including working as a bulk oil pump man in Norman Wells, a geological surveyor in the high Arctic, and a purser on the Mackenzie River—before becoming a full-time printmaker.)
When creating an etching, Raab, who. still uses the Olympus OM1 camera he bought in the early ’70s and 400 ASA film to shoot images, starts with a hand-manipulated positive print on high-contrast film. He places the film on a photosensitive, emulsion-coated copper or zinc plate and exposes it to ultraviolet light. As light passes through the film’s open areas, it hardens the emulsion into an acid-resistant block-out. Where the positive image blocks the light, the coating washes off, exposing the plate to the action of the acid in which he bathes it. The acid eats away at the metal, creating grooves and textures. The deeper the lines, the more ink they hold and the darker the tone they produce.
Raab then works the plate by hand, using traditional intaglio techniques: aquatint, an 18th-century process that reproduces the effect of a watercolor wash; line en-graving; mezzotint; and dry-point. When making each print, he hand-inks the plate, wipes it and places it on the 30-by-60-inch bed of his hand-operated press to pull the image onto damp intaglio paper.
Despite his dedication to the 17th-century-style press that he bought from a Czech tool-and-dye maker in Toronto nearly three decades ago, Raab doesn’t shun technology. Taking digital scans of black-and-white images directly to film, he says, is easier than trying to develop 2-by-3-foot sheets of litho film in his dark-room. “As long as the results I’m looking for are there, why not use it? As long as one is true to one’s convictions and has something to say, that’s more important than the way they go about expressing it,” he says.
The ability to observe, absorb and express what was happening around him led Raab to a career as an artist. He discovered printmaking as a student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. After graduating in 1971 with a diploma in fine arts, he enrolled in the University of Toronto as an extension student to study in the printmaking studio.
The Unpredictability of It All
“I love the medium and what it has to say. I love the different stages, and the ebb and flow of working with inks and metal plates,” he says. “Other mediums are more instantaneous; you immediately see what you have. With printmaking, you learn to control the acid bites, the depth of the engraving, the nuances of inking and wiping the plate.”
Printmaking leaves little room for error, and Raab admits that he sometimes has to give up on a plate that doesn’t seem to be working. “If the plate is bitten too deeply, you can flatten the metal to the point where it holds ink But it’s all hand work, and the amount of time it takes may not he worth it,” he explains.
Sometimes what appear to be mistakes end up be-coming what the artist calls “happy accidents.” In the case of a work called Lire Oaks, Raab intended to create a mood of low sunlight slashing across curling branches and spilling onto the grass. “When biting the plate, my mind was elsewhere. It ended up being bitten much too long,” he recalls. Raab colored the dark image with soft greens, yellows and blues to instead make it look like the trees were being illuminated by moonlight. “[The end result] turned out to be far more interesting than what I set out to do,” he says.
Raab makes no more than 70 prints in an edition and sells them through dealers, in galleries and at the dozen shows he attends each year. “I’ve heard printmaking called a democratic art form because there’s enough of it to go around,” he says with a laugh. “For people who love original art and want to collect work in which the artist’s hand is directly involved, buying an original print is the way to go,” he says. “Each one is a little different, each one is from the artists hand, and they’re affordable.”
The artist also donates etchings to organizations dedicated to preserving wilderness habitats and endangered species for fund-raisers. Perhaps most satisfying, however, is the preservation work he’s done near the home he shares with his wife, two college-aged sons, peacocks, exotic chickens and the not-so-exotic standard poodle and three cats. Raab has worked with developers and town officials to turn natural areas that come up for tax sale into public lands.
His involvement has been his way to take owner-ship of the groves, fields, marshlands and “the best brown trout creek in the province” that inspire him. Says Raab of his surroundings, “I love to be out early in the morning and late in the day. I love the lower light and shadows. That’s when the magic is there.”
Kim Kiser is a free-lance writer living in Shoreview, Minn.
by LESLIE ALLAN DAWN, Assistant Professor, Department of Art, University of Lethbridge
THE PHOTO-BASED ETCHINGS of Ontario printmaker George Raab appear as contemporary as today and as immediate as the landscapes they depict. Yet they invoke a centuries-old tradition and are highly complex under-takings. His art is paradoxical, but no more so than any attempt to capture “nature” and enclose its limitlessness within the confines of a picture frame.
Although its photographic beginnings give Raab’s work a sense of modernity, both his imagery and his subsequent printmaking processes tie him to the origins of using nature as a subject for art in the West. The focus of Raab’s hand tinted photo/etching/aquatints is the untamed wilderness, especially the valleys, woodlands, rocks, swamps, ponds and rivers near his residence in Southern Ontario. This repertoire links him to a little known, hut very important group of printmakers and painters who worked in Southern Germany in the early 1500s. Here, members of the Danube School like Albrecht Altdorfer were the first in Europe to create images solely from nature that qualified as independent art works. These artists specialized in the same wilderness features as Raab, although based on their native land, which, in turn, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ontario Shield.
A further comparison of the similarities between these original landscapists and Raab’s contemporary work is instructive. Both represent nature as an untamed wilderness rather than as an idealized, bucolic arcadia. Their prints each try to show the underlying spirit of nature as a universal idea involving transformation and regeneration. Hence, Raab, like his Danube counterparts, rarely, if ever, titles his work by a geographical location. He prefers, instead, poetic, even prosaic titles like The Next Generation (Pictured) , Wishful Thinking , and Where It All Began which invoke (as one of his prints is called) a Native Spirit Yet a paradox emerges here. As we shall see, by virtue of both his imagery and this very intent, he, like the Danube School, may be identified with a singular place and a specific time. As well, both the Danube School artists and Raab used the inherent qualities of their medium, especially etching, pushed to its limits to accomplish their ends, although the early Germans used line, while Raab, in harmony with his photographic basis, employs tone.
It is precisely this contemporary technological technique plus almost 500 years of artistic development that separate Raab from the origins of his practice. During this time, landscapes both took root and flourished to become one of the most popular of art forms. It evolved from the Danube to Breughel, then to the Italian and Dutch schools, followed by the British picturesque and sublime painters, the German Romantics and the North American Luminists. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the introduction of modernism, especially the French Impressionists, gave landscape a tamer, even suburban, quality before imagery began to disappear altogether. In the early twentieth century, artists like Kandinsky and Mondrian abstracted the basic elements of nature into the first non-representational painting.
Despite the variations in time, location and style, all these artists are linked by the challenging paradox of reducing the vastness and homogeneity of nature to the media of ink, pencil and paint on paper and canvas. This core problem can be seen from the earliest Danube artists to the Impressionists and even the early abstractionists. The first invoked the non-differentiated aspect of nature by using a broken, almost abstract line which allowed one form to bleed into another, while the Impressionists resorted to a soft, atmospheric haze that dissolved all forms into a shimmering light and painterly texture. Each of these approaches was in accordance with the principles and practices of its time, and each signified entirely different meanings, yet the same basic problem underlines each, that is, how to represent the unity of nature through the diversity of objects within it. Raab too, working both outside, yet in reference to the modernist tradition, continues to find this problem fascinating in accordance with the possibilities of our own age.
In bringing this tradition nearer to home, and closer to the present, it must be noted that the representation of nature as wilderness has a very specific history in Canada. Here, in the early twentieth century, it was, of course, associated with Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven who specialized in depicting precisely the area now occupied by Raab, that is the Southern Ontario Shield. They, too, wanted both to paint the spirit of nature and to define a unique place and a distinct national identity.
This attempt was tied to the assertion that they drew their inspiration directly from the land itself, staking out a claim to a native Canadian painting uninformed by European conventions and which, in many ways, turned a blind eye to the entire history and tradition of landscape art. The idea that they could approach the land with an “innocent eye” was an essential part of this ideology. Yet, as we now know, this was a carefully constructed myth. As Ernst Gombrich has pointed out in his landmark study Art and Illusion , even the most “natural” of nature painting is directed by learned conventions rather than raw vision 1 . In fact, the Group cobbled together our national landscape image from a variety of learned sources, almost all European (as was the very ideal of painting wilderness landscapes itself). Yet, as Gombrich and history will testify, innovation is possible if absolute originality is not 2 . The images of the Group and associated artists like Emily Carr gave Canada a distinctly new vision of nature and a new sense of place, tied to the landscape, that had never been accomplished before.
This, too, remains Raab’s goal. He seems to have a sense of the immense history of the tradition in which he is working and wishes to acknowledge it. Yet at the same time, he wishes to innovate, to go beyond, to explore new areas. The paradox is as central to his work as is the dual attempt to portray nature as a sort of “Ur” place, a no-place, a universal, eternal spirit and to use a tradition and image which ties him to a specific area and time. Indeed, rather than attempting to disguise these paradoxes, Raab has chosen to make the most of them by incorporating them into his work as an integral part of his imagery. In so doing, he joins them to the actual processes of his art making practice, which, as we know, combines both photography and printmaking. Both are mechanical processes in which the original disappears into a series of reproductions, and both were almost entirely neglected by the Group of Seven.
There is even something paradoxical in the way Raab begins his work. What could be more contradictory than entering the untamed wilderness and attempting to capture its spirit with the most sophisticated and civilized of instruments, the camera? This is a paradox that has fascinated landscape photographers since the invention and popularization of the medium in the last century.
It is here that the potentialities and possibilities become most clear. As Gombrich points out, photography may well be better suited than drawing or painting as a means for approaching nature directly, as a pure visual transcription 3 . Raab uses the camera’s random framing abilities to undermine or bypass the familiar picturesque conventions that have traditionally defined both the selection of the site and its depiction. Instead of aiming his lens into a neatly framed distant vista (although from time to time he does this too) Raab usually focuses downwards, at a slightly oblique angle, cropping out the sky and background space. His viewpoint tends to keep his images non-specific as “sites,” especially the “beautiful” sites associated with the picturesque. But it does more than this. By sidestepping popular conventions his works take on an immediate and informal composition that has the appearance of “naturalness.” The clear distinctions of formal design are avoided as the branches of trees and stalks of grass merge with the textures of rock and moss and their reflections in water to form an overall flattened pattern.
Raab coordinates his viewpoint with his subject. His photographic eye, although not “innocent” (and indeed highly sophisticated in its choices), tends to record neglected swamps and areas where the basic elements of nature, indeed even of life and death, are being transformed into each other. This sense of one-thing-becoming-another in an eternal transformation is an underlying theme of his work and underscores both his conception and depiction of nature. In this state, non-differentiation and homogeneity prevail over a clear separation of objects into distinct entities. Raab thus tries to use the inherent possibilities of his medium to sidestep tradition and to gain direct access to his subject.
The problem lies in the inherent “realism” or “truth” of the photographic image. Realism is generally associated with sharp focus, clear lines and differentiation of individual objects into discrete, heterogeneous images. Raab, however, both uses this possibility of the camera and overcomes it. The process begins in his selection of image and continues after he has returned from “nature” and is back in that highly sophisticated technological area: the darkroom. The developing of his negatives for transformation into etchings requires, for its success, a certain “structure.” This means that the negatives must be high contrast, which in turn implies both the absence of middle tones and a coarse grainy surface. To the extent that this is emphasized (and Raab has other means for taking it further), edges and specific surfaces tend to blur into an overall uniform black and white texture. Thus, while the image maintains its sense of realism in the shapes, especially at a distance, up close it tends to lose its differentiation. At their most extreme, Raab’s works can border on abstraction and pure tonal and textural variations. He plays with the boundaries separating abstraction and representation with a sure sense of control and balance, as in Northern Crack-Up (Pictured below) and Logaphant . He may even go further than this, cropping or editing his images and superimposing parts of one photograph onto another in order to enhance his initial conception.
The next stage of the process transposes the image on the negative onto an etching plate for printing. This is a highly technical procedure that involves exposing a metal plate covered with a photosensitive film, biting the exposed plate in an acid bath to etch in the image, inking and cleaning the plate, covering it with a sheet of thick wet paper and running it through a press. The final image is left on the paper which is then stretched to dry flat. Yet even here, Raab actively intervenes to augment the image.
The artist may work on the plate before printing, adding and clarifying lines or burnishing out areas etched in the acid bath. But the major tool in Raab’s repertoire, and one he utilizes often, is the enhancement of the texture through the addition of aquatint. This technique involves dusting the entire plate with a fine powder which, after the biting process, can further blur the already large grain of the photographic image, add to the overall texture and push the image further towards abstraction. As the image subtly becomes less distinct, form dissolves into form; in imitation of the unity of nature water fades into rock, rock into moss, moss into tree, all into the whole.Killarney and I Know a Dark Secluded Place and Here I Lay Me Down to Sleep demonstrate Raab’s mastery of this process in communicating the non-differentiated aspect of nature which in turn is read as a spiritual message.
Once the black and white print is pulled, Raab may decide to add an overlay of transparent watercolour wash. This can take the form of a few, almost indiscernible touches of the brush to pick out special details, or it may entail a complete coloration of the entire print. In any case, he approaches this stage with the same discretion, tact and knowledge as in the preceding stages. This last addition, again paradoxically, makes each reproduction in the edition into a singular and unique object and gives it a historical resonance that recalls its complex history. Early photographs, before the invention of colour film, were, for example, hand tinted. This process, in turn, echoed the use of watercolour as the basis of picturesque landscape painting during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And finally, the medium points right back to the origins of landscape itself, since the first studies, as distinguished from independent works, from nature were Albrecht Durer’s watercolours of the Alps done in the late 1400s, just prior to the formation of the Danube School.
Raab’s finished prints are, then, multi-layered images which have passed through a series of complex processes. Their final paradox is that Raab’s mastery of all facets of both his tradition and his techniques produces a work that appears as artless, mysterious, unified and beguiling as his subject itself.
1. E.R. Gombrich, Art and Illusion, a Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation , (London: Phaidon Press), 1968, third edition, pp.29-34 and 265-271. See also E.R. Gombrich “The Renaissance Theory of Art and the Rise of Landscape,” in Norm and Form (London: Phaidon) 1966, pp.107- 121.
2. Art and Illusion
3. ibid . See esp. pp. 30-33.
This text has been taken (with permission) from the catalogue for an exhibition of my work at the Kamploops Art Gallery.
by ILLI-MARIA TAMPLIN, Director, Art Gallery of Peterborough
A STREAK OF HUMOUR in artist George Raab is sometimes revealed in the titles he gives to his etchings. Recently, he has been channelling this humour into sculptures made from found objects. Raab has selectively been picking up metal parts for 15 to 20 years. A large collection of rusty metal pieces is spread out on tables and on the ground in the yard in front of the etching studio in a converted barn on his farm in the village of Millbrook, Ontario. The original intent of the objects is sometimes lost to us, but the shapes which remain are a constant source of inspiration for the artist, as are his rural surroundings. Raab contrasts his fanciful approach with the sculptures, to the contemplative process required for the etchings. The connections and references Raab makes in the sculptures are funny and free.
Raab appreciates the fact that these objects, even when transformed into sculptures, are not precious nor permanent. The rusty machined metal parts, magically assume anthropomorphic qualities in Raab’s assemblages. Even if no animal or human form is present, the piece is transformed into a vessel or vehicle for the habitation of the creature.
In selecting the subject matter for his etchings, Raab has chosen true wilderness places instead of the spectacular views of typical tourist attractions. He feels that nature is not there to amuse us. Through his etchings, Raab hopes to make us aware of the beauty of small segments of nature which we can look for and experience daily. He refers to the use of the photograph in the selection process very much as a “found” image. By framing segments with his camera viewfinder, Raab focuses on the natural life cycle of a swamp, showing us that as trees die, other plant forms begin to grow. A quiet happening in nature takes place before our eyes.
Some of the locations in Raab’s etchings are newly discovered places, such as Moresby Island. Others are neighbouring locales like the Cavan Swamp near his home. In each situation, he puts himself in close contact with nature. This experience nurtures the process of choices which Raab makes from the time of taking a photograph to exposing the image on a plate, the working and biting of the plate, until the etching is pulled from it. Raab considers his etching technique as rough, loose work. He is not interested in meticulous master techniques. He feels that this approach suits the wilderness image.
In recent years, Raab has introduced color in his work. He explains, “I was looking for a way to express myself a little more specifically in terms of atmosphere, season and the time of day. I toyed with adding color through the printmaking process but found that watercolor gave me what I was looking for — a very soft, elusive wash-like quality. I didn’t want to paint my etchings but rather to enhance the details. Color has allowed me to give more depth in terms of emotional values and has sharpened my perspective.”
The watercolor is applied to one etching at a time. It is not an assembly-line process. Raab enjoys the challenge of working on each etching to create a unique image by subtly varying the coloring. He has always worked with tonal gradations by making use of the 18th century technique of aquatinting, so-called because it was used to reproduce the wash effect of paintings. Raab has utilized the rich dark tones of the aquatint in combination with very light areas of the plate. There is often a curious backlit effect on the trees and grasses which enhances the spiritual ambience of the place. Raab’s frequent, close contact with wilderness places has made him aware of their complex intricacies. He has made us feel comfortable “where the unknown prevails”.
From the exhibition catalogue produced in conjunction with the exhibition Wild Impressions and Recycled Objects, at the Art Gallery of Peterborough, November 29, 1990 – January 6, 1991.
THE RENOWNED PRINTMAKER EXPLORES PARALLELS BETWEEN HIS WORK AND JAPANESE LANDSCAPES
By Lucy Birmingham, Arts Writer, METROPOLIS Magazine (Tokyo, Japan)-Aug 1,2008 issue #749
CANADIAN ARTIST GEORGE RAAB brings the untouched mystery, dramatic seasonal moods and gentle hues of the Canadian wilderness to Japan for the first time with a remarkable exhibition of 60 etchings at the Embassy of Canada Prince Takamado Gallery. Raab’s widely shown works are renowned for their beauty and unusually large size. This exhibition represents 25 years of his career—similar to a retrospective—and is perhaps the most extensive show he has ever mounted. For audiences here it has been a delight to see the uncanny similarities between Raab’s Canadian landscapes and those of Japan by Japanese artists.
“After university and art college, I bought some acreage in a remote wilderness area north of Toronto,” Raab tells Metropolis via email. “It was there that I built my first studio and spent a number of years figuring out what I wanted to express as an artist and how to best do that.”
Amid the solitude, Raab was inspired by the forests, hills and lakes that surround his studio. He created his etching style by combining drawing, photography, traditional intaglio printmaking and painting. All his original prints are inked, wiped and printed by hand on his manual press. Some are watercolored.
“Lone Pine” probably best represents Raab’s popular winter scenes. The sepia tone reminds one of a lovely old postcard—perhaps a quieter, less composed Ansel Adams. The central naked tree combined with a lake and mountains offers a visual pull away from the surrounding detail. “I am more interested in portraying my emotional response to the atmosphere of a place than recording the representational details,” he says.
Raab’s nature etchings are generally small scale, limited by the size of both fine art-etching plates and his etching press. He’s been able to create larger works by extending the length of his plate steel press bed and butting multiple etching plates together to create diptychs and triptychs on single sheets of paper six feet long.
In the center of the exhibition is a series of large forest landscape etchings mounted on a screen-like construction similar to a Japanese byobu folding screen. “I wanted to challenge myself to try something I had not done before,” Raab says. “My intention was to create a bridge between my landscape imagery and a traditional Japanese presentation.” The pieces act as a divider and make a strong statement in the large gallery space. “The fine textures and tones, the rich blacks and delicate lines are all present in my large works. I enjoy pushing the threshold and combining 21st-century technology and presentation with the centuries-old material and techniques of intaglio printmaking.”
Although this was his first time to Japan, Raab is knowledgeable about the country’s art and artists. “I am a big fan of traditional Japanese woodblock prints,” he writes. “I enjoy Hasui, Hiroshige, and I was recently introduced to the contemporary color mezzotints of Hamaguchi.” A Japanese aesthetic and philosophy runs through his work. “I think my artwork shares a similar relationship with nature as depicted through Japanese literature and visual art; a spiritual connection to the timeless beauty and mystery of the natural physical environment and one’s solitary search for meaning within it.”