SHODO: THE ART OF CALLIGRAPHY

Shodo is the Japanese art of calligraphy, but more than art, it can be defined as a Japanese spiritual form. The word Shodo comes from the union of two ideograms 書 道 which mean 'art of writing' and 'moral path'.

It is not only an artistic but also a moral discipline that requires long learning. In Japan it is the basis for painting, in reality both disciplines are based on the immediacy of the gesture, the continuity of the rhythm, the control of the force on the brush and retouching or corrections are almost never accepted.

The mission of Japanese Calligraphy, according to the Zen spirit, is to help people achieve harmony with the deepest part of their being. The more this harmony is achieved, the greater the personal happiness. To achieve this, one must try to eliminate one's ego and study.


The art of calligraphy, known throughout Asia, focuses on simplicity and beauty and mind-body balance.


Most people define calligraphy as art in its own right, but true calligraphy is achieved by applying the very basic elements of art, particularly line, shape and space. The essential is to master the lines. Their shape, in fact, helps to visualize the desired effect. Often the line is drawn with a focus on love, determination or positivity. These feelings can often affect the type of line that follows.

Since the handwriting is done with large, circular gestures and brush drag and pressure techniques, no sketches or guiding drawings are used.

In the creation of symbols, especially in Chinese calligraphy, nature is a prominent theme. Organic forms such as trees, leaves and flowers are common subjects for Chinese or Japanese artists. Because the culture that supports calligraphy is centered on the beauty and wonder of nature, inorganic forms such as geometric figures or man-made objects are rarely painted.





JAPANESE WRITING STYLES:

Japanese calligraphy is characterized by 5 types of fonts: the tensho style, is the style of the seal, still used for their engraving.

The Reisho style, also called the style of officials and scribes.

The kaisho style (楷書) is considered the origin of all shodō writing styles. Kaisho is very similar to what is found on computer keyboards or in the fonts used in everyday life. It represents the first approach to Japanese writing.

The semi-cursive style is gyōsho (行書), less formal. Literally, the word gyōsho means "writing that moves", and in fact it has a more fluid style.

The most difficult writing is the last, the most abstract, called sōsho (叢書). It is the most complex to learn, the characters are linked to each other, in fact the brush is detached from the writing surface very few times. The sōsho cursive style recalls the movement of the wind in the grass, and its main feature is represented by emotion. Sōsho characters are not made to be legible or understood, but must convey the emotion of those who wrote them, and be aesthetically beautiful.


CURIOSITIES

While writing, the body must be as free as possible and must participate entirely in the execution. The position of the sheet, for correct writing, is fundamental. In a sitting position, the sheet must be located just below the navel, to avoid having to raise the arm excessively. The torso must be erect to encourage regular breathing.


ORIGINS

Thanks to various articles from the oriental calligraphy school, we learned about the origins of the art of writing in Japan.

Around 500 A.D. Chinese culture invades Japan, which adopts its writing system, adapting it, after a long period, to its own language. The monks who went to China for their apprenticeship also transplanted the art of calligraphy to the country. Chinese writing has a vertical development and proceeds from top to bottom and from right to left. Its origins date back to the second millennium BC. and are engraved on tortoise shells and oracular bones. An evolution followed that led to the use of the brush and the formation of the complex of Kanji characters which still remains largely unchanged today.

A fundamental element in the composition of a calligraphic work is the seal (Yin). It is the only colored element, generally red, that appears next to the black strokes. Its affixing can have a decisive impact on the definition of the balance of the work. If its dimensions, its apposition and its shape are not adequate, the entire handwriting fails, completely nullifying its balance and harmony.