Surimono (literally ‘printed thing’) originally applied to Japanese woodblock printed material that were generally privately commissioned by poetry groups. Prints would consist of a poem, or several poems, together with an image; poets or poetry groups would commission an artist to produce an image that resonated with the poems. Poets aimed to challenge poetic traditions and subvert the classical poetry form, while demonstrating their own skills, wit and knowledge.

Poetry has always been an integral part of Japanese culture and consistently linked with other art forms and the combination of poetry with image is part of a long Japanese tradition combining literature and art.

This led to me collaborating with the poet (and plant scientist) Anne Osbourn to create a form of surimono using photographs and poems integrated into a single image. The images follow the theme of the threats faced by plant life. The photographs are concerned with the forms of flowers that have yet to reach, or have passed, that stage of perfection usually associated with a perfect bloom and were influenced by study of Art Forms In Nature by Karl Blossfeldt. Unlike surimono, the image came first and the poet responded to it, this allowed a response not just to the image itself, but to other influences. In Queen of the Night, for example, as well as being the name of the tulip, it is also the title of a relief sculpture in the British Museum depicting the Mesopotamian god Ereshkigal and the poem references this. Xochitl in Cuicatl alludes to the origins of the Dahlia in South America whereas Jerusalem Sage is a reference to the power of the image.

The text and image are combined but do not follow the strict formatting discipline of kyoka poetry, instead forming an integrated image influenced by, but not adhering to the rules of, surimono. 

Using Format