SHO - Masters of Contemporary Japanese Calligraphy
In the Far East, calligraphy is regarded as a source of painting because it uses the same instruments as ink painting - brushes, ink and paper or silk. Calligraphic works of art are respected to the same extent as paintings and are often rated as National treasurei kokuhó, or the first-category works of art which are always displayed in prominent places in various galleries and museums. The letters become a self-contained theme of hanging scroll paintings kakemono, horizontal hand scrolls makimono, kecorated panels shikishi and folding screens byóbu. The history of Japanese calligraphy is long and intricate as, according to Confucian concepts, the beautiful writing was believed to be a reflection of a cultivated soul. Consequently, calligraphy was one of the elementary disciplines of university education as early as the Heian period in the 9th century. Throughout the centuries an entire complex network of calligraphic styles evolved, some of them suitable for the writing of Chinese characters (kanji), others for the Japanese syllabic letters (kana) or various transitive forms of letters (hentaigana) between the iconographic and phonetic systems. In Japan, historical styles of Chinese scripts are still practiced, such as the seal, ceremonial, official, conventional, conceptual etc. scripts, but also special Japanese types such as the grass script (sósho) which was used mainly for the Japanese phonetic syllabary in the oldest Japanese diaries, poems and novels of the Heian period. A decorated background is another typical feature of Japanese calligraphy, both for solitary characters and composed texts. Beautiful letters are often found on paper with printed or hand-painted natural motifs or abstract sprayed patterns of golden and silver clouds called nashiji. As calligraphy is not a historical but living discipline, it is still widely practised in elementary schools as well as a variety of calligraphic schools, studios, unions and societies throughout Japan, which organise national contests every year.
Calligraphy is also displayed at annual Japanese Salons along with the Japanese and Western painting, graphic art and sculpture. Our small selection of masters of modern Japanese calligraphy shows several framed works made by various authors after World War Two, which were excellent enough to succeed in national contests and become part of international touring shows of this special Japanese form of art. Although the artists, prominent representatives of prestigious calligraphic schools, were born both around the mid-2Oth century, their works have much in common - a sense of refined composition and bold contrasts. Most of the 45 exhibits are by authors who have been awarded prices in all-national Japanese contests. The Exhibition SHO has been organized by the Association for International Advancement of Calligraphic Culture from Tokyo under the auspices of the Japanese Embassy in Prague and the Czech Embassy in Tokyo. It is sponsored by major Japanese newspaper companies - the Mainichi and the Tokyo Shinbun.