Mariko Kinoshita (Japanese calligrapher)

If we go back to the origins of writing in East Asia, characters were used as a medium for communication between the gods and people.

Before long, the artform of ‘calligraphy’ eventually came to reflect how Eastern thought viewed nature and man, while at the same time the form and style of the brush strokes made it possible to understand the meanings beyond letters and words from, heart to heart, even if one did not comprehend their literal meaning.

Since the modern era, the exchange between East and West has led to a new tradition of Japanese calligraphy.

In the modern era, exchanges between East and West have given rise to a new Japanese calligraphy tradition. At the beginning of the modern period, Japanese came to be written using Chinese characters together with uniquely Japanese hiragana characters (for native words) and katakana characters (used for foreign words), seamlessly blending these three scripts together in a single text. In calligraphy as well, a uniquely Japanese style took shape, harmonizing different cultures and reflected in the name Chowa-tai, or “harmonized style.”

Calligrapher Mariko Kinoshita started Japanese calligraphy under the influence of her grandfather from the age of six, and went on to study at Daito Bunka University, known as a leading institution in the study of calligraphy, where she acquired specialised knowledge and advanced skills. She has been exploring calligraphy as a traditional cultural art form handed down from ancient times in East Asia, and having acquired solid skills and knowledge in writing the five styles of Japanese calligraphy, she is actively working in the ‘harmonised style’.

Calligraphy is an art form of the brush stroke created when the practitioner’s eyes, hands, body, and mind work in harmony, and Kinoshita thoroughly understands that “the stroke” is itself “the trajectory of energy”. Kinoshita’s work embodies this concept. While making use of emotional and dynamic brush strokes and delicate shades of ink, Kinoshita reflects the abstract beauty hidden in the “spirit” of the brush and the “rhyme” of the ink, and imbues her calligraphy with an elevated spirit.

Furthermore, she constructs traditional calligraphy as a work of ‘contemporary art’ that has acquired universal spatiality, time, movement, transcending the distinctions between Eastern and Western aesthetic senses. She also gives presentations of contemporary calligraphy that is rooted in traditional culture, but which is brought to life and performed by a modern calligrapher.

Based in Tokyo, she has been working on calligraphy for various main titles and themes for exhibitions, films, and TV programs in Japan and other parts of the world, where she holds workshops and public performances as a form of cultural exchange aimed at conveying the charm and aesthetics of Japanese culture.

Main activities

● Public calligraphy performance in front of 50,000 people at the opening ceremony of the Major League Baseball season opener at Tokyo Dome.

● Six-hour-long public performance of “The Tale of Genji”, the world’s oldest full-length novel at the international book fair “Japan Year” held at COEX in Seoul, South Korea.
● Public performance of an experimental water calligraphy using water instead of ink at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

● Calligraphy writing performance in front of HRH Princess Sirindhorn at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, Bangkok, Thailand.
● Created the title script for the first exhibition to tour Japan’s three major national museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, entitled “The Birth of Chinese Civilisation”.
● The world’s first public calligraphy performance using a tablet device, the Apple iPad, at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena, the most prestigious venue for Sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport which incorporates many ancient religious aspects.

● Public performance of calligraphy as a guest at the Japanese speech contest for Russians organized by the Japan Foundation at the National Library of Russia.
● Calligraphy writing performance of a tanka poem by Akiko Yosano, a well-known anti-war poet, against the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), at the Arsenal Museum in Kieu, Ukraine.
● Appeared in a North American commercial film for NISSAN US.

● Theme scripts for the “Shoso-in Treasures Exhibition”, one of the most important exhibitions of imperial treasures in Japan.
● Appeared in a SONY digital camera commercial film.

● Titles and scripts for the 86th Academy Awards nominated film for animated short film “Tsukumo” (executive produced by Katsuhiro Otomo) .
● Participated in a documentary on Albert Camus by Arte, France.
● Invited by the city of Note to participate in the “Infiorata” flower festival in Val di Note, a World Heritage Site, and performed public calligraphy in the square of the City Hall of Note, Italy.
● Appeared in a high fashion magazine “L’UOMO VOGUE”, Italy.
● Joint calligraphy performance the first Mongolian-Japanese “Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty” with a master of Mongolian calligraphy at the National Museum of Mongolia.
● Titles and scripts in the film, “Rikyu ni Tazuneyo (Ask this of Rikyu)”, the winner of the Best Artistic Contribution Award at the 37th Montreal World Film Festival.

● Presented the digital calligraphic works at TOKYO PHOTO 2014.
● Appeared in a commercial film for a Panasonic 4KTV.

● Titles scripts for NHK’s annual “Nippon Premium” campaign on the main theme of Japanese culture .
● Appeared in ‘Holiday Magazine’, France.
● Public calligraphy performance at the Japan Pavilion in Expo 2015 Milano in Italy to promote the attractiveness of Japanese food culture.

● Presented an installation of a Japanese teahouse with calligraphy at KENPOKU ART 2016, an international art festival created by the director of the Mori Art Museum, a leading contemporary art museum, in Roppongi, Tokyo.

2016- 2017
● Titles for NHK’s NHK Special series and programmes.

● Presented an installation work with calligraphy using four major street visions in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

● Public calligraphy performance on a Noh (a traditional Japanese performance art) stage in a solemn ceremony on the 1,300th anniversary of the completion of the Chronicles of Japan, Japan’s oldest imperial history book.
● Presented an installation work under the project ‘Japanese culture transmission project for media arts at airports’ led by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese government.
● Participation in the project “IWA”, a Japanese sake for overseas markets, funded by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The label script for the bottle, designed by Mark Newson who is known for the product design of Apple watch, of Japanese sake supervised by Richard Jofrowa, who was Chief Brewer of Dom Perignon in France for 28 years.

● Presented “Calligraphy Collection” collaborating with the world famous fashion brand “Y’s”, the first brand by Yohji Yamamoto who is even said to have changed western view of fashion.

● Created Japanese calligraphy for contemporary dance costumes together with fashion brand Y’s under the theme of “new resonance of clothing and calligraphy through the rhythm of the body,” for use in a dance performance within a Japanese traditional Kabuki performance at Yakushiji Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple and World Heritage Site.

● Executive producer for a publication on Japanese traditional culture (to be published in spring 2024).

☛Activity introduction from here