The art of Sho, Shodō, is the art of calligraphy or literally the way of calligraphy. It is an ancient art valued as a visual art (according to H.E. Davey) but also a form of 'moving meditation' and as a means to enhance concentration, willpower and poise. Shotei Ibata, a Japanese living treasure at the age of 68, heaves the world's largest calligraphy brush out of a bucket of ink (he almost can’t get the brush over the lip) and proceeds to sweep across a floor of paper.His state of balance is such that on his first failed attempt to lift the brush he smiled and laughed with the audience without becoming distracted from his task and the connected state that he had connected with prior to the performance. Meditation is a must for all performers of the art of sho and this is where the art becomes a mere extension of the seated meditative state. Later he told us that he never knew which calligraphic character he would draw or how he would do it - his aim was to become empty and allow that emptiness to create form.|
The Art of Sho, modern Japanese brush art, has been developed as a fine art through the desire in the past to write aesthetically those Chinese characters which were originally invented in China some three thousand years ago as linguistic symbols for communication. These symbols, together with Buddhism, were introduced into Japan between the fifth and sixth centuries. The art of Sho is essentially an abstract art. It is not representational nor is it merely the art of refined handwriting. Characters as used in the art of Sho are no more than a
convention and merely provide a field for artistic expression. Their meaning, denotative or connotative, is not considered important except in special cases in which the artist chooses a particular character because it is the best suited to the size of the paper to be
used and its configuration is the most appropriate for its self expression.
Suppose the artist has chosen the character 'kawa' which means a river: it is composed of three vertical lines drawn from side to side. The artist is quite free to decide how thick and in what form each of these lines is to be , how they are to be spaced and with what
force and speed they are to be drawn, That is the point of the art of Sho. I would like to emphasize that this is the art in which characters are used as motifs for artistic expression. One may question why characters are used. The answer lies in the beauty and variety of
form - almost limitlessly varies and variable.The art of Sho is a formative art of lines and space in which time plays an important part. The artistic meaning of lines is created and determined by the pressure applied on the brush and the direction and speed of its movement.
The rhythm thus produced is not a mere rhythm of forms but a dynamic representation of the very rhythm of life as it moves on.