View all News & Photos

The Brush of Shoko Kanazawa

Renowned for her artistry with brush and ink, Shoko Kanazawa (b. 1985) is one of Japan’s most acclaimed contemporary calligraphers. Born with Down syndrome, Kanazawa began studying calligraphy at the age of five. Her affinity for this artform that requires mastery of the most subtle variations in line, placement, and saturation flourished as she grew up. Her first exhibition of work, fifteen years after she began, was a breakout success that set her on the path toward international acclaim.

Wind and Thunder Gods (Fújin Raijin), 2009

Today, she is a leading proponent of performance calligraphy, which is driving a resurgence in popularity of the artform with younger generations. Her use of oversized brushes and sumi ink require full-body expressions and movement to create dramatic, large-scale works. In honor of her artistic achievements, Kanazawa has been named one of the official artists of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

To symbolize her hopes for the world in 2020, Kanazawa selected the kanji character 和 wa, meaning peace or harmony, as her personal statement. For a year which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as the beginning of the new Japanese era of Reiwa (令和, or beautiful harmony) with the accession of a new Emperor, Kanazawa’s message is particularly timely. Kanazawa’s way of viewing the world through her challenges, rather than despite them, imbues every calligraphic line with the open-heartedness, empathy, and compassion she hopes to communicate and inspire in viewers around the world. Kanazawa spreads an inspirational message of peace and harmony that transcends borders and limitations of all sorts.

In honor of Kanazawa, Portland Japanese Garden has partnered with the Northwest Down Syndrome Association to connect with the local community through special
programming. These include student outreach at Grant High School, which is Portland Public School’s Japanese immersion school.