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- Author Rikō Takahashi
- Date of production August 3, 2013
- Place of creation Japan
- Dimensions height: 136 cm, height with binding: 143.5 cm, width: 138 cm, width with binding: 181 cm
- Author's designation red seals: “Rikoh”, “RI”, “Ri”
- ID no. MSITJM1316
- Availability in stock
- Acquired date 2014
- Object copyright The Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology
- Digital images copyright all rights reserved, The Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums Plus project
The calligraphy depicts an ideograph Ima今 (Now) written with black ink on white paper. At the bottom of the work, to the right, there is a red seal with the letters Rikoh in the Latin alphabet. This is the artist's name written in one of the versions of the Japanese language transcription. Novices in painting and calligraphy were encouraged to carve their own seals − the art of carving seals was called tenkoku.more
The calligraphy depicts an ideograph Ima今 (Now) written with black ink on white paper. At the bottom of the work, to the right, there is a red seal with the letters Rikoh in the Latin alphabet. This is the artist's name written in one of the versions of the Japanese language transcription. At the bottom, to the left, one can see two additional red seals, both almost square, and both with the first ideograph of the artist's name 里(RI), but the sign placed on the upper one is written in stylised seal writing, an archaic form of the Chinese writing. Calligraphies used to be affixed with an artist's signature and seal. Novices in painting and calligraphy were encouraged to carve their own seals − the art of carving seals was called tenkoku. The form of the seal and the area to where it was affixed was dependent on the aesthetics of the work as a whole, and it had to be affixed according to some traditional rules.
The calligraphies drawn on paper were bound in the form of a scroll, similarly to traditional paintings of the Far East. Longer texts were framed so as to be rolled and read horizontally – such rolls were called emakimono (Jap.). In the case of shorter texts and single ideographs, works were required to be viewed in their entirety, so they were bound vertically – kakemono (Jap.). Paintings or calligraphies were fixed to a paper backing, and then their edges were covered with fabric (honshi) . The method of binding, the style, was determined by the work's purpose and, of course, by its subject. The differences manifested themselves in the size, shape, and the presence or the absence of a surface covered with various fabrics. The piece of fabric placed at the top was usually larger than the one placed at the bottom.
The Ima calligraphy is bound in the honfukurohyōgu style. The actual piece (called honshi) is surrounded by one type of fabric – in this case, a silk fabric with a geometrical, blue and grey pattern, with one exception – there is a fragment of yellow material showing from under the border of the silk fabric.
Two wooden rollers help to keep the form of the work secure: at the top – the roller of a smaller diameter, and at the bottom – of a bigger one. The endings of the bottom roller (its diameter depended on the work's size) were ornamented and they were often made of a different kind of wood or even other materials such as wood covered with lacquer, ivory or cattle bones, as well as metal, ceramics, and more seldom, semi-precious stones. A colourful silk tape was always fixed to the upper roller and it was used for hanging the scroll.
In Rikō Takahashi's calligraphy, the endings of the bottom roller are light brown and in the shape of a lengthened cylinder of the kirijiku type; they were made of wood covered with lacquer or varnish.
As was the case with traditional paintings, the Ima scroll has its own wooden box. Such boxes were used to protect the work against physical damage, dampness and insects. Due to the last two problems, which were typical to the Japanese humid climate, boxes were often made of paulownia kiri or Japanese cypress hinoki wood. Inside the box protecting the Ima calligraphy, two rests were placed to allow the roll to sit only on its ends. The box surface is covered with several ideographs written with black ink on paper. Inside, there is the date of the work's creation along with an adjective emphasising the meaning of the date: year 2013, 8th month, 3rd day. Next to the artist's originally styled red seal, her first name and surname written with ideographs can be seen, as well as Latin letters suggesting the way they should be read. Outside, on the lid of the box, a paper is affixed bearing the artist's first name and surname written in ideographs. Above them, there is a small stylised sign Ima with a red seal bearing the sign Rikō.
The Ima ideograph, consisting of four lines (brush strokes), was made in the Avant-garde style, which was developed after the World War II. This trend followed newer artistic concepts of pure abstraction, and due to this, the trend is somewhat similar to some trends in the western art of the 20th century.
The ideograph is placed somewhat asymmetrically – it is closer to the right side of the painting. On the other hand, lack of symmetry in a composition was one of the traditional rules of Japanese art.
The first ideograph made by Rikō Takahashi was rather large, and it became part of Avant-garde trends in the art of calligraphy, where both kana and kanji signs were enlarged in the composition. However, the artist usually does not create such large ideographs – Ima is one of her largest works. The strokes with which the sign is made are unusually thick and massive, and the ideograph hardly fits the sheet of paper, although the paper size is somewhat uncommon (typically, calligraphies did not include such large ideographs in proportion to the paper sheet). To a person looking at the painting, the sign may simply seem enormous, almost endless, and the person can have a feeling that, in this particular moment, nothing else exists apart from the sign – it obscures everything and does not allow anything else to exist. Perhaps, the artist wanted to draw our attention to the fact that for one particular moment, this “now” is of the greatest significance to the person experiencing it. This moment may be exciting or boring, pretty or ugly; it may occur suddenly, unpredictably, or it may be consciously chosen – for example, when we concentrate on creating a calligraphy. It is our own experience; this “now” fills us up completely, and nothing can compare to the strength of its impact. Aside from its aesthetic features, the Ima work captures a deep thought conveyed in a simple form. The painting is an excellent illustration of the essence of the art of calligraphy, where, apart from the quality of its form, we can find philosophical, unusually deep, artistic messages in a seemingly simple form.
Apart from this universal idea which the artist wanted to convey very subtly, Rikō Takahashi has shared with us her personal reflection which probably inspired her to create the work. Although we do not know what this “now” was in the artist's case, we can find a piece of paper bearing an inscription stuck inside the box. It is a very interesting complement to the calligraphy which refers to the present moment after all, although everyone construes and experiences the moment individually. The inscription includes a message from the artist in the form of the adjective yokihi placed next to the date (the original record was mentioned above), pointing out that the moment which inspired her to create a painting of universal meaning apparent to all was of extraordinary significance to her.
Elaborated by Małgorzata Martini (The Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved