Shinoda Toko


Shinoda Toko died last week  aged 107.  She was a giant among abstract calligraphy artists, and for many years more well known abroad than in Japan.  I had the good fortune to meet her once,. It was at the Opening of a Retrospective of her work celebrating her 90th birthday at the Hara Museum in  Tokyo. I was struck by her composure and grace. She was dressed in a grey kimono and courteously greeted the guests one by one as we arrived. She didn’t sit until she had received us all. 

I have one image of her brushing work which I saw in an old video of her.  She was dressed as usual in a kimono. She held a long brush vertically over the paper spread out on the floor, and swaying sideways left and right she  let the brush stroke the paper in straight, grasslike lines.   She slightly altered her position and the brush changed direction. The movements were minimal, just enough to allow the arm to redirect the brush. The lines were delicate and free. They seemed to come straight from her soul.

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