Sho, Japanese calligraphy

By contemporary masters

27 September 2002 - 3 November 2002


This exhibition presents a selection of works in different formats and calligraphic styles, from the monumental to the very delicate. The visitor will be struck by the extraordinary vitality which exists in the art of writing in contemporary Japan. The texts themselves are more often than not borrowed from Chinese literature, and can represent an interpretation of five or seven lines penned by famous poets of past times, or extracts from the Confucian or Taoist classics; they may even be no more than sentences of two characters. These texts are rendered in hundred different manners, here under the influence of seal script or there in a more cursive style, sometimes becoming more hieratic, with the character taking on a pictographic aspect, at other times dynamic and almost hurried, with the forms of the words seemingly dancing over the paper.

The Japanese calligrapher, while inheriting these traditions from China, also has the advantage of being able to turn to a style of writing unique to his own culture, a syllabic and phonetic system, originally devised for writing poetry and still used for haiku. These signs, derived from a simplification of Chinese characters, appear almost fragile in their apparent simplicity but bring both lightness and great elegance to the finished work.