Opening Reception: January 11, 2020 (Sat) 16:00 - 18:00
The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of Tokyo Gallery+BTAP. To mark this milestone, we will be kicking off the year with an exhibition by Uno Sesson.
Born in Hyogo in 1912, Uno Sesson would go onto become a leader in the post-war avant-garde calligraphy movement. Uno graduated from the Mikage Normal School in Kobe in 1932, and was inspired to take up calligraphy after subscribing to Shokan, a calligraphy magazine. Soon after his graduation, Uno begun study under Ueda Sokyu. He later joined the Keiseikai, an association for the study of calligraphic art founded by Ueda in 1940. Uno was also active in the development of avant-garde calligraphy during and after WWII. This latest exhibition was made possible with the help of the artist’s family.
Uno was an enthusiastic student of the forbear of modern calligraphy: classical Chinese. Some of the rubbings he collected were even donated to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The artist’s love of Chinese civilization was evident in his work, and all the varied avant-garde expression seen in his work can be interpreted as a development of classical calligraphy texts.
The post war avant-garde calligraphy movement that Uno led attempted to escape from the idea that characters are there to convey meaning. For instance, the titles of some works are written in alphabet, which is likely to be a conscious attempt to introduce ambiguity by only using the phonetic readings of the characters (Japanese is full of homophones), and thereby loosen the correspondence between expression and meaning. Avant-garde calligraphy approaches painting in that it is a refinement of form, but at the same time maintains the physicality that is basic to calligraphic expression. This physicality was shared by other avant-garde art of the time, including impressionism and figurative painting. Uno had extensive contact with Western artists, and left his mark on not just the world of calligraphy but also the wider art scene in many different ways.
Over the last 70 years, Tokyo Gallery+BTAP has hosted many calligraphy exhibitions, including our 1977 exhibition of rubbings of inscriptions beside Buddhas carved into rocks. We hope that this exhibition will boost interest in avant-garde calligraphy and prompt audiences to rethink the history of modern art in Japan.