Jean Kigel: Gyotaku Exhibition at Little Tokyo, Brunswick

Posted March 24, 2012, at 9:31 a.m.
Gyotaku Fish Monoprints, Kigel
Gyotaku Fish Monoprints, Kigel

Sunday, April 1 to Monday, October 1, 2012; 11:27 a.m. to 9:27 p.m.

Location: Little Tokyo, 72 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME

Contact: Jean Kigel; 832-5152


An exhibit of Japanese fish prints by Jean Kigel debuts at Little Tokyo in Brunswick this April and continues through September. What better place to view gyotaku fish monoprints than at a restaurant with Tokyo-trained chefs and Japanese out-fittings. Guests may treat themselves to an artistic array of sushi at the table and gyotaku prints on the walls.

Kigel has always loved fish. As an adult she knew that her life would be incomplete without depicting this precious resource. She grew up in a family that fished recreationally – both on Moosehead Lake and on Muscongus Bay. During the Colonial days, her home town of Warren was saved from starvation by a spring run of alewives.

Already established in her career as a watercolorist and Asian brush painter, Kigel discovered gyotaku after her trip to Japan. Gyotaku (gee – a – TA – ku), the art of printing fish, originated in Japan centuries ago as a way of documenting the size of a catch. The walls of Japanese tackle and fish shops once were draped with sumi fish prints. In modern times gyotaku has evolved into an art form. Before printing a whole, un-gutted fish, Kigel prepares its scales with salt, and its fins and gills with batten and clay. Then she applies printers’ ink in varying tones and colors directly onto the fish. The image of the fish is transferred to paper by using hands as a press. Depending on the thickness of the inking, every scale, fin, and gill may print. A single fish can be ghost-printed or re-inked and printed again, often with unexpected effects. Prints can be as realistic or as abstract as one likes, and each is unique.

Kigel has printed more than twenty species of fish including mackerel, cod, bass, trout, flounder, pollock, skate, John Dory, tilapia, and sculpin. These have been exhibited at Archipelago Gallery in Rockland, the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset, Summer Island Studio in Brunswick, and Tidemark Gallery in Waldoboro. The Down East Magazine and Pacific Fishery Magazine have featured her gyotaku work.

The manager of Little Tokyo has pledged to give a portion of the gyotaku sales to local charities. Little Tokyo is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 – 9:30 and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 – 10:30. FMI visit or call Little Tokyo at 798-6888.