Curator‘s Comments

Iwami uses simple materials—ink, wood, and metal leaf—to create abstract compositions that capture the subtle qualities of nature. Using woodblocks with distinct textures as her matrices, the artist creates exquisitely crafted prints combining sensitively printed areas of black, white, and grey with blind embossing, metal leaf, mica, and handmade paper. According to collectors Mary and Norman Tolman, “Iwami’s subject is water and its flow, and her genius lies in the almost mystical ability to transmute the grain and texture of pieces of wood she has found into visual images of patterns of water.”


Initially trained in doll-making at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo, the artist refocused her creative energies on printmaking during the mid-1950s, studying with three of the most important modern printmakers in Japan: Onchi Koshiro, Sekino Jun’ichiro, and Shinagawa Takumi. In addition to making woodblock prints, Iwami is also a poet, and sees a distinct relationship between her two art forms: “Haiku is a disciplined study. It forces one to eliminate what is not necessary, and that’s why I use it as a spiritual exercise for my prints.”

Water and the Moon features a floating net-like form. This texture was taken directly from life: the artist used a piece of fishing net, attaching it directly to the plate where it was inked and printed as a collograph (a form of relief printing using collaged elements).

Water and the Moon

Iwami Reika. Japanese, born 1927

Water and the Moon, 1972

Woodblock and collograph printed in black, red, and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured, cream colored paper

The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo

ID Number: SC 2014:12-14