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Chima Sunada Gallery

We Japanese have two kinds of letter: Kanji(Chinese Character) is one, which was imported from China around the last years of Roman Empire, the other two are Hiragana and Katakana, converted from Kanji a few hundred years after its importation. Kanji is ideogram, while Hiragana and Katakana are phonogram. Each Kanji stands for one or several meanings, while each Hiragana or Katakana merely signifies its sound like alphabet.

 

stand

tatsu

600 x 900mm 1973
stand
stand

say

 

kotonoha(word)

600 x 900mm 1973
say

 

be

aru

600 x 900mm 1974
be
erase

kakureru(hide)

690 x 670mm 1974
erase

erase/disappear

eyebrow

biju(long life celebration)

690 x 670mm 1993

eyebrow

eyebrow celebration

 

treasure

takara(important thing)

830 x 770mm 1996

treasure

treasure

 

rain

ame

520 x 500mm 1999

rain

rain

 

siroku

shiroku/kuroshi

330 x 240mm 2002

This is Hiragana-letter work. We read horizontal sentences from left to right today, whereas they had been read from right to left until decades of years ago.

white/black
music

gaku
240 x 330mm 2002

music

music/pleasure

 

star

hoshi

390 x 350mm 2002

star

star

 

offspring

shishisonson(connection of life)

170 x 680mm 2002

offspring

offspring

 

young

seishun(youth or adolescence)

350 x 500mm 2002

young

young

 

spring

haru

240 x 330mm 2002

spring

spring

 

light

hikari

240 x 330mm 2002

light

light

eye

me

240 x 330mm 2004

eye

eye

 

longtime

nagaku or chokyu

170 x 680mm 2005

longtime

longtime

 

rhyme

in (collaboration with Mirella Bentivoglio)

500 x 350mm 2004

rhyme

rhyme
live

ikiru

600 x 900mm 1973

live

live
divide

wakeru(share)

600 x 900mm 1974

divide

divide

 

round

mawaru(rotate)

900 x 600mm 1974

round

round
crystal

akiraka(explicit)

690 x 670mm 1976

crystal

crystal

Hiragana Works

ametuti1
ametsuchi I
350 x 450mm 2004
tainiide2
tainiide II
450 x 350mm 2004
tainiide1
tainiide I
450 x 350mm 2004
iroha2
iroha2
350 x 450mm 2004
iroha1
iroha1
350 x 450mm 2004
ametuti2
ametuti2
350 x 450mm 2004

Exhibition at Senigallia, 2005

exhibit2005_01exhibit2005_02exhibit2005_03
exhibit2005_11exhibit2005_12

Sho-do, “the road to writing”

Japanese artist Chima Sunada combines calligraphy and experiment

written by Franca Zoccoli, contemporary art reviewer

Recently, on the occasion of an exhibition of works by Chima Sunada, at Senigallia (Museo d’Arte Moderna, dell’Informazione e della Fotografia), the artist gave a performance of sho poetry, thus revealing the different stages of her interventions between language and image. A large sheet of paper is laid on the ground. Near it, brushes are placed and a bowl full of water in which small cubes of Indian ink can be grated in order to dilute or thicken the blackness of the sign. The artist, who is minute and young looking, carries out her operation with these simple tools. And we are astonished by the strength with which she traces her “figures”, her arm stretched, the movements quick and rhythmical, almost as if she slashed the paper, like “a small samurai of the sign” (Mirella Bentivoglio).

The involvement of the whole body, the acting upon a surface laid on the ground immediately call to mind Pollock (action painting has undoubtedly Japanese roots). Another analogy with the American artist is the large size. In the Japanese calligrapher an ideogram, isolated from any context, widens broadly and becomes the solo protagonist. But there are differences too. While Pollock assails the canvas with violence, in a sort of tribal dance leaving ample space to chance, with the Japanese artist gesture, though impetuous, is strongly controlled.

In Chima Sunada the development of an aesthetic language took place during a very long stretch of time. It started, in her childhood, with the encounter with calligraphy: a love at first sight, which proved everlasting. Few know that ju-do means “the path towards agility”. In Japan, among the many roads to learning, sho-do, “the road to writing”, is one of the most important. Chima Sunada followed this road with passion and infinite patience for twenty years. She was only five when she began studying calligraphy and subsequently she devoted herself to this discipline from elementary to high school and then at university. Only at the end of this stern initiation did she enter the aesthetic sphere: the skilful and experienced calligrapher changed into an artist modifying ideograms for an expressive purpose.

The introduction into Japan of concrete poetry, in the mid sixties, proved essential for her to reach this turning point. Concrete poetry redeemed the visual aspect of words, stressing that the written word, besides being sound and the support of meaning, is in itself also shape, image. Ideograms are particularly suited for semantic-visual interventions. In the history of mankind the first type of writing is pictography (sign – representation), then we have ideogrammatic writing and at last the alphabetic system, based on sound and totally severed from figurative references to outside reality. Ideograms are therefore located in the middle: no longer representation, they are not yet pure abstraction. Differently from our letters, each ideogram is a word, which is not a recognizable image, but preserves a hidden memory, as it were a nostalgia, of the pictographic origin. This is a reason why concrete poetry was particularly successful in Japan where the ASA Group (Art Study Association) was founded in 1964. Soon Chima Sunada entered the movement giving her own contribution. In the works of this period she used types of her language with iterations and spacings inside geometric grids, extracting new meanings from them. In the meantime she went on practicing sho-do and, in the first half of the seventies, she achieved a fertile fusion of the two “roads”, creating a kind of calligraphic visual poetry, with an unprecedented operation.

In a subsequent period she abandoned the Japanese types and began to draw large ideograms, modified in order to be similar to their meaning. The changes are always slight ones and a Japanese observer can recognize the original ideogram. It is as if the artist dug inside the writing sign to recover the underlying pictographic image, of course not with a scientific approach, but through intuition and enlightenment. In that way, for instance, the ideogram “word” becomes a short horizontal mark from which sounds fall down; “to turn” suggests a wheel with its hub; “treasure” takes on the shape of an embracing vessel; “youth” alludes to a germinating tree with an upward dash. Again, in other works, Chima stresses the flowing in the ideogram “river”, creates an explosion of energy, shifting the elements of the word “light”. In every sheet, instead of the signature there is a little red square with the name of the artist. Like all calligraphers.

Chima Sunada possesses her own seal of carved stone with which she marks her work, thus avoiding to interfere with a different handwriting. In order to underline her ties with the Japanese tradition, the artist also mounts like kakemonos some sho-poems of smaller sizes. A kakemono is a “portable picture” with two rods, at the upper and lower ends, around which it can be rolled. The image (a painting or a drawing) is placed against the background of different cloths assembled together. Sunada uses splendid Japanese silks in sophisticated combinations, creating precious, fascinating works.

Besides these quotations, the whole production of the artist shows more intimate eastern features. In western countries, where alphabetic writings are employed, puns are based on phonetic analogies: exchange of vowels, anagrams, etc. Only in the East can visual drifts be achieved within the very shape of a word. In a time when we are losing our grasp on reality and the virtual is invading wider and wider territories, Chima Sunada’s work proves remarkably up-dated and transnational in its openness, because of her attempt to reconnect the linguistic sign to the substance of things.

terzo

TERZO OCCHIOreprinting from “TERZO OCCHIO (Dec 2005 issue)”,
a contemporary art magazine, Bologna, Italy
original article in Italian, translated into English by

zoccoli

Franca Zoccoli with gelato

Japanese Translation