Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shodoka Michiko Imai: Embrace your treasure/s

When I learnt via FB that the Shodoka, Michiko Imai would have a demonstration at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—my mind was made up to go to Boston. In the West, there are few opportunities to be in the presence of persons practicing any form ardently and persuasively—breathing it, so to speak. Experience teaches us what is and what is not. Having observed her manner in the virtual world that is Facebook, and having had the opportunity to appreciate her works, there was no hesitation in making a decision: Tat tvam asi (Sanskrit) That thou art.

We had planned to get there early from New York on the 6:50 am bus, and stay the length of the demonstration. I along with Noriko Miyawaki were there for only one reason—to see, meet and greet Shodoka Michiko Imai. Thats still one reason! Unfortunately, our bus was very late (not one but two breakdowns on Megabus). 

But we were glad to get to see her brush three pieces: Sei Shonagon’s, Makura no soshi 枕草子 (Pillow book)/the winter section, in Kana; the charcater Ai  (Love) in Gyosho (semi-cursive); and Ryu (dragon), which is in the zodiac calendar 干支 (Kanshi/Eto) in Sosho (cursive). In the Pillow book piece, Michiko brought out/made extant the sound contained in the section relating to snow very admirably. Shodo has many components, and its Ways may be paralleled with being and existence itself. This becomes evident when one learns to see what a shodoka’s unique ability, and sensibility to manifest consciousness through line, with its two principal attendants—nijimi 滲み (blotting, blurring…) and kasure 掠れ (brush traces) among other inflections, can convey to a character, a line, and certainly to a body of text. In that sense, and solely in my opinion, a Shodoka and the way of Shodo is closer to Iaido and Aikido on the one hand; and Chado/Sado (Way of Tea), Kado (Way of Flowers) and Kodo (Way of Incense) on the other. It is decisive yet deliberate—honed through ones being over time. The mind through all of this is clear and tranquil.

Michiko Imai was born in Nara. Her calligraphy studies began at the tender age of four at the Baikou Calligraphy school; she subsequently gained membership to the Tenshin Kai, and later to the Cho-ko Guild. Her work has been displayed at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Osaka Municipal Museum Of Art, Nara City Museum Of Art and the Kyoto Municipal Museum Of Art; and she “is among the few to have won multiple best of category awards in national competitions (Japan).” More information may be found on her site.

Her setup for the demonstration was in the Druker Family Pavilion, Community Room 159 at the MFA Boston—a lovely space fronted by glass and open to viewing from the expansive corridor which had some people doing just that while relaxing in lovely chairs. Michiko looked resplendent working on red felts; in a dark kimono, a compact obi, and spotless tabi. Above all she moved well, and in her movement, both in her Sho as well as her artistic deportment, and overall comportment—in turn moved her audience. She spoke about the totality of her art practice (the materials, work and presentation), relationship of space to the brushed characters, a bit about brushes and absorbency; her choice of a particular brush and relationship to paper—for writing the character Ryu. she explained why it is essential for her to mount her own kakejiku (scroll). Ms Imai is also an artisan artist (Hyougushi)—one who mounts/makes scrolls; which she learnt during her apprentice at Mizuno Hyougu-ten, while she also taught calligraphy. The piece she spoke about (see image below) was well constructed and had a unique sense of balance and space dynamics. These are aspects that take years to imbue and I could not stop sharing the nomenclature of the various parts of a scroll with Noriko. That happens when one enjoys such pursuits.

Ryu (dragon) in Sosho


It was also good to see the other pieces around the room, which she has calligraphed earlier, alongside various other study examples. At the back of the room, there were adjoining tables with all seats taken with visitors/afficionados keen on trying their hand at Shodo. The overall energy was very palpable and a credit to Michiko Imai. 

It was soon time to leave. We managed to get an earlier bus back to New York—happy that we had availed of this opportunity. Embrace your treasure/s, thats besides: inkstone, inkstick, paper and brush for sure! Thats what happened, except that it was Ms Imai who graciously reached out and embraced, a hug in American parlance—a circle completed, the line taken back to the Big Apple.

PS: Excuse the poor angles of the images. 
These links may be of interest: 


joicy said...

A very moving ode to the artist.

Venantius said...

The counter says that on Dec 6, the blog received 35 unique visits, and 121 counter views. I can only imagine that many of them were calligraphy practitioners at various levels. so I appreciate your lone comment, and it so much savory since I know you always mean what you say. Thank you.