Branch, 2006

Hitoshi Ujiie

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Throughout history, textile designs have been tailored to the production methods in use, and each technological innovation has led to a change in the visual vocabulary. Most printed textiles today are made by rotary screen printing. Since each color requires its own engraved screen, the number of colors in an image is reduced to a manageable number, usually eight to twelve. The pattern size or “repeat” can be no larger than the screen, and the level of detail is limited by the pore size of the mesh used.

Hitoshi Ujiie’s work is an exploration of the aesthetic implications of digital inkjet printing for textiles, which is bringing about profound changes in the design approach for this medium. Working in the virtual realm has allowed artists and designers to collect, produce, and manipulate images in new ways, playing freely with detail and focus, color effects, and combined or layered images. Working from photographic and video sources combined with hand-manipulation, Ujiie exploits the full range of effects that can be achieved by digital technology, yet his work maintains a profoundly delicate aesthetic. The fineness of line exhibited in his etched plant forms in Botanical are the result of the higher resolution available in digital printing.

Digital technology also eliminates the need for repetition or repeat in textile design, and Ujiie turns his attention instead to a sense of movement, or rhythm without repetition, either through engineered patterns or randomization of pattern, or both, over extended lengths. Branch has an academic treatise on digital printing as a background. The subtle tonal gradation and sense of transparency showcased in Virtual Fruit are only possible with inkjet technology. While it is theoretically possible to print millions of colors with a four-color printing process, Ujiie uses this color precision instead in the creation of layered dimensional effects and subtle blending of color.