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Japanese Avant-garde Calligraphy in Conversation with Prehistory

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

木曜日 21 7月, 2022
6:00pm BST - 7:00pm BST

Online lecture, via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
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Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer (Sainsbury Institute)

About the Talk

Starting from the late 1940s, artists around the globe complicated the relationship between the visual and the verbal, creating various forms of unreadable scripts and languages. Abstract narratives by Pierre Alechinsky, sculptural messages of Isamu Noguchi, and encrypted visual language of Joan Miro, all communicate a sense of confusion and suggest new visions of a language for the future, while connecting to the idealized prehistoric past through the framework of primitivism.

In this context, avant-garde calligraphy from Japan, in which visual representation is equally significant as the semantic meaning, entered the art venues first in Japan and then internationally. The Postwar generation of calligraphy artists, including calligraphers of the Bokujinkai group, Keiseikai group, and independent artists such as Hidai Nankoku, endeavoured to bring calligraphy to the same level of recognition as abstract painting. Based on the recent book “Bokujinkai: Japanese calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde”, this talk introduces the theoretical and visual framework of primitivism as a link between avant-garde calligraphy and international abstract painting in the long 1950s.

About the Speaker

Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer, Ph.D., is Lecturer in Japanese Arts, Culture, and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, affiliated to the University of East Anglia.

She is an art historian specialising in modern Japanese art. Before joining the Sainsbury Institute in 2018, she received her Ph.D. from Heidelberg University and held postdoctoral positions at Emory University, Atlanta, GA and Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C. Her research interests include postwar art in Japan; modern calligraphy history in East Asia; transcultural studies; abstract art; and the relationship between image and language in modern Japan. She is the author of Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde (Japanese Visual Culture Series 19, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020), and currently working on her second book project on the history of calligraphy modernization in East Asia.

She is the course director of the new MA programme in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies, launched in September 2020, and teaches courses on Japanese Art History and methodology of Japanese Studies.

Image: A boy drawing a face in the sand in the streets of Kyoto, snapshot of minute 02:10 in Pierre Alechinsky’s film Calligraphie Japonaise (1956)

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.