Our first show has just started on Artsy!
- 15 Dec, 2019
"Modern Japanese Calligraphers: Contemporary art with a glint of Japanese calligraphy - from Japan to the world"
Pure Shodo, Tokyo, is proud to present "Modern Japanese Calligraphers: Contemporary Art with a Glint of Japanese Calligraphy - From Japan to the World" as an online exclusive show on the world's largest art platform, Artsy, from Saturday, December 14th, 2019 to Friday, January 31st, 2020.
Japanese calligraphy is already well known worldwide as "Shodo," still, it seems has been just introduced only the traditional cultural aspect. It is not as art. Besides, we are happy to hear that foreign people say "Kanji is cool,” but we have mixed feelings when we think of the history of Japanese calligraphy and the thick layer of people who study it. Most of the "Kanji" art seen overseas is far from calligraphy.
Recently, in genres such as Black and White, Brushstroke, and Gestural Abstract, we can see many artworks that give us a sense of Deja Vu, that resemble our calligraphy that had moved toward abstraction after the War. However, for art fans who like those genres, there are almost no introductions of modern Japanese calligraphers who live today, except for a few of the calligraphers who have earned a high reputation overseas, such as INOUE Yuichi and SHINODA Toukou.
Therefore, in September 2019, we established the online gallery Pure Shodo to disseminate and enlighten people around the world the cutting edge calligraphy by our own hands.
All of our artists teach calligraphy. They have learned and absorbed about the "written characters" that has a 3,000-year-long history since the Oracle bone script used in the Shang-dynasty in ancient China. They are responsible for connecting it to the next generation.
On the other hand, as an artist, everyone continues to make an effort to find their expression that matches the present era. Occasionally, we hear the discourse that "calligraphy is not an expression" inside the society of traditional calligraphy, but our calligraphers who "live in their own way" are never heresy. History clearly shows that countless challenges have been repeated in the past, not only to preserve tradition but also to create a new tide by casting a stone in the heavy and profound flowing history of calligraphy.
The world has changed as the Internet connects the world and allows information to be shared around the world. Many foreigners have come to Japan, and a diverse society is realizing. The boundaries are expanding and mixing. Pure Shodo believes that it is natural that the creators' aesthetics are expanding from "calligraphy" to "contemporary art" in the context of these times.
We introduce modern art on the edge of Japanese tradition. Enjoy the fragrance and the radiance of the aesthetics of calligraphy.
Title: Modern Japanese Calligraphers: Contemporary art with a glint of Japanese calligraphy from Japan to the world
Organizer: Pure Shodo
Period: December 14 (Sat), 2019 - January 31 (Fri), 2020
Venue: Online (Artsy https://www.artsy.net/show/pure-shodo-modern-japanese-calligraphers)
Pure Shodo website: https://pureshodo.com
Participating Artists (in alphabetical order of artists’ surnames)
ISHII Houtan, OGAWA Izan, KANAMORI Akane, MIYAMURA Gen
Artists’ Biography (in alphabetical order of artists’ surnames)
石井抱旦 ISHII Houtan
Born in Sagae City, Yamagata Prefecture in 1947. Lives in Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. He entered the world of calligraphy after graduating from a history department at a university and finding employment as an elementary school teacher. He learned traditional calligraphy and then succeeded by the pioneers of abstract expressionism in Japanese calligraphy such as UEDA Sokyu, UNO Sesson, and INOUE Yuichi.
He emerged as an avant-garde calligrapher in the 1970s, developing his unique style of a fusion of calligraphy and abstract art. In 1990, he won the Grand Prix at Mainichi Shodo Exhibition, the largest calligraphy exhibition in Japan, and stopped producing works using 'too conventional' large brushes. He shifted to expressing his fantastic image by discovering various materials and techniques.
"It should be a beauty; this sums it all up," he said, "I can see the sense of the reverberations and stillness appear on my works naturally. It seems like Zen." His sharp, vibrant lines and ink bleeding cut off and vibrate the margin space. He also said, "In my mind, putting Sumi ink on paper is something like a minus work, like sculpture."
His latest work, the COSMOS series, created using his sense of calligraphy appreciates as contemporary art.
He is trying to see Japan in a new light by his original interpretation of calligraphy. Also, he has accelerated the movement to nurture young calligraphers and to expand calligraphy by holding exhibitions such as 'Ten-ten' every year since 2008 and 'Both extremes (traditional and avant-garde) of calligraphy' since 2019.
小川移山 OGAWA Izan
Born in Nasukarasuyama City, Tochigi Prefecture in 1946. Lives in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture. In 1969, he established his private school for calligraphy and advocated “calligraphy utilized in daily life” and developed original guidance. He has been active as a calligrapher for 50 years, and now he is expanding his expression into contemporary art. In 2005, he met the painter, TANAKA Kaori, and aimed at contemporary art.
He has a clear line between calligraphy and art, and is saying, "By staring at Kanji characters and words thoroughly, we can see the abstraction behind them. When I went to over characters, I had to dismantle the way calligraphy should be.”
In his lifework, "Sectional images" series, are created using the synthetic paper called repel paper as the support and using Sumi ink and mineral pigment. He said, "Coincidence and inevitability come together in this work. The liquid moves on the paper and I operate it until the moment when a convincing phenomenon appears. For instance, when you are walking, you encounter a nice view, you see it, your thought stops. That's it. I want the moment that we meet something."
His understanding of breathing, rhythm, nature, and contingency is a world unique to a calligraphic artist who has reached an in-depth perception. When you face at his work, you will evoke various images. "Please feel what is outside of what you know. Don't stand ready nor trying to understand."
OGAWA is over 70 but still aspires to enjoy various experiences and develop them just like KATSUSHIKA Hokusai. In the past few years, he has been actively engaged in the production of his works, holding several exhibitions a year to present his works to the public.
金森朱音 KANAMORI Akane
Born in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture in 1991. Lives in Tokyo. KANAMORI started learning traditional calligraphy from childhood. She was strongly attracted to avant-garde expressions when she met INOUE Yuichi's works at the age of 18. She is also affected by hardcore punk rock in the same period. She entered the calligraphy department of Tokyo Gakugei University, and spent her days totally absorbed in calligraphy.
The impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 made her thought deeply about her identity and "What should be written." It has become a significant theme in her expression. She seeks for original expressions based on traditional calligraphy. She uses not only Sumi ink and paper but also painting materials such as paints and canvas.
Unlike many avant-garde calligraphers who advance to abstract expression, she sticks to writing "characters." Her characters transform freely as if they were alive and come up from the surface. There are strong thoughts such as doubts and anger towards society in living as a woman and mother. Her expression is so close to her daily life that it is “the living figure itself,” she says. Kanamori will continue her explore as an individual, as a mother, and as an artist.
宮村弦 MIYAMURA Gen
Born in Shimada City, Shizuoka Prefecture in 1980. A calligrapher who presents abstract works that boldly interpret calligraphy in many art projects and various mediums. He gained a high reputation as a traditional calligrapher since the beginning of his career. Nevertheless, in recent years, he has used computer graphics and digital collages extensively in calligraphy expressions. Those artworks go beyond traditional calligraphy methods. His radical approach is sparking a debate about what calligraphy is.
His starting point was that he grew in an environment where abstract expression was taken for granted. He learned under an avant-garde calligrapher from 8, and since then, he had studied calligraphy professionally until at the Niigata University Graduate School.
In his master’s thesis, he studied the arbitrariness of language through the relationship between concrete poetry and modern calligraphy. He focused on the point that both of them exclude meanings and emphasize form and arrangement in common. This discussion came to fruition in 2008 as the “Image Langue” series. The artworks were digital collages of the coded representation of Sumi ink elements link with hiragana letters.
He strives to visualize the new expression of the essence of calligraphy through his unique aesthetics like a Zen monk. He is fond of sharpening to the limit and keeping a suitable distance with the object. His taste has become an aesthetic in life, and you can see it on, such as Instagram (@genmiyamura).
In 2017, he unveiled the “Morse Code” series, which visualizes Morse code using masking tape and a Japanese painting technique, wet-in-wet. In 2019, announced the “Braille Code” series with Braille motifs. All those series used the Japanese codes, not English. He attempts to explore the possibilities of Japanese writing expression and to reconstruct and present the Japanese language system itself through his filter.
Miyamura sheds light on calligraphy from a different angle. He doesn't care about the modeling and meanings of characters that are focused on by many calligraphers.
He is an extraordinary artist who has a clear goal of “leave his name in calligraphy history.” Still, he is one of the emerging artists in contemporary art, for now.
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