Nature print of skeletonised leaves of the Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, from Yarra Bend Park, Melbourne. The leaves were printed on Hosho paper using the direct/brayer method and black speedball/oil ink.

Dr Eric Hochberg is a world-renowned expert on cephalopod molluscs and a specialist in traditional Japanese nature printing techniques including Gyotaku (fish printing). Dr Hochberg was the 1985 Thomas Ramsay Science and Humanities Fellow at the National Museum of Victoria.

Nature printing expresses the essence of nature through the medium of paper or cloth and ink. Fisherman preserved records of their fish catches by creating gyotaku. The oldest recorded gyotaku dates back to 1862 when Lord Sakai of the YamagataPprefecture, having harvested a particularly large catch in a single night recorded the catch by making prints of large red sea bream.

The simple elegance of common subjects is preferred. Whether weed, shell, or fish, each animal or plant has its own unique texture, shape and energy. By isolating the subject in the negative space on a sheet of paper this signature can be identified. The results are zen-like renderings that praise the diversity and beauty of nature.

Hochberg's works recreate schools of fishes, marine invertebrates, depth perspectives of plants and a sense of motion and life. Nature printing and gyotaku are created using two method. Hochberg uses the direct method where ink is applied directly to the specimen, followed by the paper, resulting in an exact replica of the specimen. The indirect method involves placing the paper on top of a prepared fish, before applying ink to the paper using a small cloth blotter, producing an accurately sized, slightly abstract impression of the subject.

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