Cutting Edge Issue 2 - Page 71

SHODO The arts prospered, but are not considered as refined as that of earlier times. Of note is the role of Ikky? S?jun, a successor of Sh?h? My?cho at Daitoku-ji; Ikky? was instrumental in elevating the appreciation of calligraphy to an integral part of the tea ceremony in the 15th century and an appreciation of the art called zenga, though this practice didn’t come into its own until the beginning of the Edo period in around 1600. Zenga is a style of Japanese calligraphy and painting, done in ink and in many instances, both calligraphy and image are part of the same piece. The calligraphy is usually a poem, or saying that teaches some element of Zen. The painting is characteristically simple, bold and abstract. Calligraphic studies were essentially limited to the study of karayo style works, via the Ming Dynasty China. Calligraphers such as Hosoi Kotaku, who authored the five-volume Kanga Hyakudan in 1735, further advanced the karayo style. Characteristic for the early Edo period was an innovation by Hon’ami K?etsu (1558–1637) who had paper made to order and painted a backdrop of decorative patterns, butterflies or floral elements with which his calligraphy established a poetic correspondence (Zenga). Together with Konoe Nobutada (1565–1614) and Sh?kad? Sh?j? (1584–1639) – the three Kan’ei Sanpitsu – he is considered one of the greatest calligraphers in the wayo style at the time. Around 1736 Yoshimune began relaxing Japan’s isolation policy and Chinese cultural imports increased. Catalogues of imported books testify to a broad appreciation of Chinese calligraphers among the Japanese literati who pursued the karayo style: ‘traditionalists’ studied Wang Xizhi and Wen Zhengming, while the ‘reformists’ modeled their work on the sosho style of calligraphers such as Zhang Xu, Huai Su and Mi Fu. In terms of wayo, Konoe Iehiro contributed many fine kana works but the wayo style was not as heavily practised as karayo at that time. Some examples have been preserved by scholars of kokugaku (National studies), or poets and painters such as Kaga no Chiyo, Yosa Buson or Sakai Hoitsu. Japanese calligraphy was influenced by, and in turn, influenced Zen thought. For any particular piece of paper, the calligrapher has just one chance to be creative with the brush. The brush strokes cannot be corrected, and even a lack of confidence will stand-out in a piece of work. The calligrapher must concentrate and be fluid with the brush, which writes a statement about the calligrapher at a moment in time – a method of achieving Samadhi. This style is referred to as Hitsuzendo, the ‘Art of the Brush’. Through Zen, Japanese calligraphy absorbed a distinct Japanese aesthetic often symbolised by the enso or circle of enlightenment. Another form of calligraphy is called Bokuseki meaning ‘ink trace’, and refers to a form of calligraphy and more specifically a style of Zenga. It is often characterised by bold, assertive, and often abstract brush strokes meant to demonstrate the calligrapher’s pure state of mind representing ones singlemoment awareness by brushing each word or passage with a single breath, ultimately realising Zen and manifesting ones Zazen practice into physical and artistic action. Before Japanese tea ceremonies, one is to look at a work of shodo to clear one’s mind. This is considered an essential step in the preparation to the tea ceremony. Enso Yamaoka Tesshu (1836–1888), founded the Hitsuzendo line of thought as a ‘practice to uncover one’s original self through the brush’. This was then further developed by Omori Sogen Roshi as a way of Zen practice. Hitsuzendo is practised standing, using a large brush and ink, usually on newspaper roll. In this way, the whole body is used to guide the brush, in contrast to writing at a table. Zen calligraphy is practiced by Buddhist monks and most shodo practitioners. To write Zen calligraphy with mastery, one must clear one’s mind and let the letters flow out of themselves. Source: CUTTING EDGE | 69