Tomoko Kawao Dances in Ink
Sat back on her heels, Tomoko Kawao has an air of thoughtfulness about her, as if in meditation. In a few seconds’ time, this graceful young woman will break into a strange form of art named shodo.
Silently, she bows to the canvas which is several square metres in size, picks up a brush (of equally extraordinary dimensions), dips it in a well of ink and lets the excess flow off ceremoniously. Suddenly, she bursts forward and runs the brush over the gigantic canvas, stops, her body fully extended, as the brush fibres drip ink onto the canvas, before returning to the source and, having recharged her ammunition, starting the process again. A few minutes later, she draws the final line of her phrase: ‘Time does not wait’.
Shodo originates from China and became popular in Japan at the start of the Showa era (1926-1989). Since then, it has never stopped evolving. This contemporary form of Japanese calligraphy seeks to express the beauty of the sign: its lines, points and the place between the two where the brush creates vibrations in the air.
Tomoko Kawao began learning her craft at the age of six. Since then, she has won numerous prizes both in Japan and overseas, and now gets involved in varied projects, from train station signs and temples to alcohol bottle labels. This artist fights for shodo to be seen as an accessible activity as opposed to a serious, austere discipline, even if it is one that is loaded with symbolism. As Kawao repeats, ‘once the brush is on the paper, there’s no going back’. In this sense, shodo is not dissimilar to life itself: its beauty lies not so much in the result, but rather in the choreography.
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