Calligraphy, Beyond the Page
Calligraphy has a long history in Japan, and Sisyu is currently one of the country’s most prominent calligraphers. She is taking calligraphy beyond the page to create modern art with global appeal.
The following are excerpts from our interview.
In my process, first I think about the meaning of a word or a character. I think deeply about it. Then, I write the characters in a lot of different ways. I try a softer style, a more aggressive style. Something heartrending. Or a warm approach. I do maybe 500 different versions.
Let’s say I write the kanji inochi, life. But the character “life” encompasses many different meanings of "life". There’s life in the sense of just being born; there’s the life that’s just ending; the life where you just found out you have cancer, and you realize how precious life is. It's only natural that different lives are expressed in different ways.
More than the solid object itself, I was interested in the shadows. Somehow I think it’s easier to empathize with something if it's vague, like a shadow. Even though the actual person is standing in front of you, within reach, something as vague as a shadow can sometimes say a lot more about that person. That feeling must be universal, I thought.
And in order to create a shadow in writing, I thought I had to get into the history of writing. The history of these characters. I realized that these characters existed before we had paper. No paper, no ink, no brushes.
Writing was carved deeply into cow bones or deer bones. I thought, writing wasn’t flat, it used to be 3D.
I had that realization, and that’s what led me to create these shodo sculptures.
If you look back at Japanese history, it was very common to write stories along with pictures.
There are stories, poems, put alongside these pictures. And I think that’s related to today’s anime and manga, which are popular around the world.
This is what was going through my mind. In this work we have a silver folding screen on which images are painted. Instead of writing characters directly on the screen, I put sculptures about 50 centimeters from the screen, and they cast a shadow. The shadow collaborates with the screen. It’s all about taking writing, taking calligraphy, beyond tradition and beyond the page.