Sumi ink and watercolor on gold leaf, mounted on board, 1970
Signed with artist's signature and seal lower left
Signed, titled, and dated by the artist, verso
Condition: very good, slight imperfections in the painting surface, most probably during the creation of the work. Non obtrusive.
Toko Shinoda (b. 1913)
Toko Shinoda's prints and brush stroke paintings are famous the world over. She was born in Manchuria in 1913 where her father managed a tobacco factory. Two years later, the family returned to Tokyo. Her father practiced calligraphy and sumi painting as a hobby, and began training his daughter at the age of six. Shinoda was also academically schooled in traditional calligraphy. She had her first exhibition at Tokyo’s Kyukyodo Gallery in 1940. Then came the war and the rebuilding of Japan.
Her abstract work began in 1947, inspired by the philosophy of Zen. “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.”
In 1954, Shinoda was included in a group exhibition of Japanese calligraphy at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She produced mural calligraphy for the Japanese pavilion at the 400th anniversary of the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Two years later, she was able to secure a visa and permission to visit the United States. She managed to stay and travel for two more years. During that time, the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, she saw works by Hans Hoffman, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. As Paul Gray noted in his article for Time magazine, “[Shinoda] realized that these Western artists, coming out of an utterly different tradition, were struggling toward the same goal that had obsessed her.” And in fact, in 1955 her works were included in Nichi-Bei chusho bijutsuten (exhibition of Japanese and American abstract art) at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
Her calligraphy continued to be shown, and was included in the Sumi no geijutsuten (exhibition of sumi art) which toured Europe in 1955–6. From 1956 on she held numerous one-woman exhibitions in Europe and North America. In 1957 she held solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and La Hune Galerie, Paris, and in 1959, another one-woman show at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels.
She began producing lithographs in 1960 and found them to be a favorite technique. Unlike woodcuts that require a chisel, or etching that requires acid, lithography allows Shinoda to work directly and impulsively on the plate. Her fluid brushstrokes suggest images and the vitality of nature. She often hand-colors her lithographs afterwards, giving each sheet an individual touch.
In 1965, Shinoda had her first one-woman exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, home in the late 1940s and 1950s of abstract expressionists Clyfford Sill, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Lee Krasner, and by the late 1960s of Pousette-Dart, Ellsworth Kelly and Walter Murch. Two more solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery followed in 1968 and 1977.
The work of Toko Shinoda provides an international merging of East and West. Her preferred medium is sumi, or India Ink, which she grinds herself in the traditional manner. For Shinoda, sumi provides an unlimited color spectrum. Negative space, yohaku, is used to balance the composition and heighten the tension between line and color. Her name, Toko, meaning “red peach” is often the inspiration for the sudden bursts of color in her work, while she likens the blackness that she can achieve with sumi to the earth. Editions of her prints are small, usually no more than 12 - 55 copies. Titles like Breeze, Calm, and Rapture are suggestive of her love of poetry, another passion since childhood.
Today, Toko Shinoda is one of Japan's foremost calligraphers, and an avant-garde artist of international repute. Her abstract paintings and lithographs are included in the collections of major museums throughout the world, and have been collected by the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Using sumi ink and precious pigments on grounds of silver and gold paper, she has accomplished a new reserved balance between painting and calligraphy. She shows us, “the wind that the eye cannot see.”
Thomas French Fine Art, June, 2011