CLASSIC and modern Japanese prints are on show in the Malvern Theatres as part of the Autumn In Malvern Festival.

The exhibition comes from the Cultural Centre at the Japanese Embassy in London and, like other events in the festival, is part of Japan 2001, arts and cultural events taking place nationwide throughout the year.

The pictures being shown in Malvern were specially selected for Autumn in Malvern by David Prentice, the award-winning artist who lives in the town.

Mr Prentice is a long-time friend of Peter Smith, who is the festival's artistic director.

The exhibition consists of prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige, the great artists of the 18th and 19th Century respectively, plus modern wood engravings from Fumio Kitaoka, entitled Beauty of the Four Seasons.

Fumio Kitaoka is a leading exponent of the "sosaku hanga" or "creative print" school of engraving, having studied with Un'ichi Hiratsuku and Koshiro Onchi, who are two of the leading lights of that movement.

Sosaku hanga is a style which combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with some of the painting and printmaking techniques developed in Europe.

Mr Prentice said: "Japanese paintings and prints were a major influence on artists like Van Gogh and Gaugin, Orient-alism was very in vogue then.

"It has now come full circle with the European influence in the works of Kitaoka."

Mr Prentice said that at one time, his own work had showed a Japanese influence.

"In the 1970s, when I was painting abstracts, I was very influenced by the designs of Japanese gardens, but that was a long time ago," he said.

He is now producing a series of wood engravings of his own, but featuring scenes from the Malvern Hills rather than the Orient.

Mr Prentice said he has enjoyed tremendously the Autumn In Malvern events he had attended so far, particularly the Sorrel String Quartet concert of Elgar music.