Koshu Japanese Calligraphy in Clerkenwell

Koshu Calligraphy

There aren’t many opportunities to see Japanese calligraphy in London – the last exhibition I saw was Tairiku Teshima back in April. So when I heard that Akemi Lucas was having an exhibition at the Frameless Gallery on Clerkenwell Green I had to take a look. What I found was calligraphy in a tradition that goes back in a direct line to the Meiji era at the end of the nineteenth century, presented with a modern twist.

Koshu Calligraphy

Akemi’s artist name is Akemi Koshu – hence the name of the exhibition. As tradition dictates, her artist name was given to her by her master, Seizan Fujimoto, whose own master’s master studied with Meiji era calligraphist Kusakabe Meikaku. Meikaku’s strong, precise Chinese style supplanted the soft, fluent kana (Japanese phonetic script) calligraphy of the official school of the time and his teachings became very influential, with his style coming to be used in official documents and school copybooks.

Koshu Calligraphy

Akemi has an impressive range of qualifications in calligraphy. She studied brushwork at the Japanese Bunka Calligraphy School in Tokyo, painting with black (suibokuga) and coloured (nanga) ink at the Kansai Nanga College in Osaka, Certificate Form Writing at Japan Calligraphy Kigo College in Tokyo, Seal Carving and Traditional Scroll Framing at Hounan Art School and Pen Writing at Japan Bunka College in Tokyo. You can see the range of her work at the exhibition.

Koshu Calligraphy

She showed me works in a soft, three dimensional style, achieved by using an absorbent paper which meant that she had to work extremely quickly as the paint soaked into the paper at such speed.

Koshu calligraphy

At the other end of her range is this series of three scrolls, each containing a poem of a thousand characters written in China in 500 AD that describes the creation of the universe. The scroll on the left is written in the regular style, the middle one in the semi-cursive style and the one on the right in the cursive style.

Koshu calligraphy

Here’s a detail of the semi-cursive style.

Koshu calligraphy

She also works in what looks like white ink on a black background, though she told me the ink is actually transparent and, having done the calligraphy, she paints the background in without being able to see the ink until it is finished.

Koshu calligraphy

I liked the works where the calligraphy is combined with painting to make a complete picture, as in this one, which is decorated with cherry blossom. The letters say Love is the Source of Life.

Koshu calligraphy

Or this, Kaikatutenku, which is hard to translate but means the endless breadth of the ocean and the sky.

Koshu calligraphy

This picture may look like the lipstick counter at Shu Uemura, but in fact it’s a collection of Akemi’s hanko which are personal seals used in Japan to sign important documents.

Koshu calligraphy

Her pictures of moonlight are very atmospheric.

Koshu calligraphy

Akemi has been practising and teaching calligraphy in the UK since 2001. If you want to attend one of her calligraphy courses, you can find details on her website.

Koshu calligraphy

The exhibition at the Frameless Gallery, 20 Clerkenwell Green, continues until 23rd November. It’s open Monday – Thursday 11:00am – 7:00pm, Friday and Saturday 11:00am – 10:00pm and Sunday 11:00am – 4pm.

Koshu calligraphy

10 thoughts on “Koshu Japanese Calligraphy in Clerkenwell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s