Kingetsu Ishii (石井 琴月)

Kingetsu Ishii,Mother and Child, 2009
Ink on Paper
20” x 27.5”

In her rhythmic calligraphy paintings, artist Ishii captures the formal beauty of ancient Japanese Kingetsu characters. These spare, streamlined ink on paper drawings feature a variety of large and expressive marks that are often accompanied by small, intricate, red seals. The natural toned paper and fluid, black ink create a dynamic tension between negative and positive space in these works that are simultaneously decorative, personal, and sacred.

Ishii’s bold, gestural compositions are reflective of her own personality. Indeed, in East Asian cultures, one’s handwriting is considered indicative of their level of education, cultural refinement, and aesthetic sensibilities. The artist manipulates the form of the characters through speed and pressure, the overall appearance of the symbols conveying the artist’s state of mind.

Historically, calligraphy writing was an art form elevated above all others in East Asia. The status of the artist was reified by the power of the written word, and the formal properties of characters were considered an exemplar of the kinesthetic energy of the human body and the vitality of nature. Evaluated on balance, proportion, and rhythm, each mark is a careful combination of control and dynamism.

Ishii’s brush writing surpasses the Western notion of calligraphy, a word derived from Greek meaning “beautiful handwriting.” Instead, these characters, painted with soft, animal-hair brushes, are completely distinctive and meant to embody beauty, even above legibility. An ancient practice communicating the status and learnedness of the writer, the East Asian calligraphic tradition is utilized by the artist as a way to fuse past and present, cosmic and worldly. The expressive and gestural strokes are a means to consider the connectedness of all creatures across time and space, a way to expand one’s worldview and link the mind and body.