In this thesis I investigate the meeting between Western art and the art of Japanese painting and calligraphy. Based on the question of what impact the meeting of modern art has had on the development of modern Japanese calligraphy, I present the art of avant-garde Japanese calligraphy, which is a modern style of calligraphy, and compare it with the developments of modern art both in the West and in Japan. Then, the question is what came out of this meeting. Is it so that it was a one-sided influence from the West, or could we say that a dialogue between the East and the West developed?
Looking at the artworks of several artists does maybe shed some light upon the question what impact the meeting between modern arts has had on the development of avant-garde calligraphy. Therefore, in that purpose there are several artists presented here, both Western and Japanese, painters and calligraphers. I also introduce modern calligraphers and modern avant-garde artists and discuss their work in relation to what the situation is today in the field of calligraphy.
I have chosen to compare Japanese art to American abstract expressionism, since American abstract expressionism is said to have most similarities to Japanese calligraphy, and there was an intensive dialogue between these two in the 1950s and 60s. I also point at some of the problems this dialogue contained and question how avant-garde calligraphy has developed during the last thirty years, after most contacts between Japanese calligraphers and abstract expressionists had ceased.
Some of the problems that coloured this dialogue was that based on historic facts like the European imperialism and victory in wars, industrialization and so on; Japanese art faced the accusation of being derivative of Western art. From the Western notion that Asian art, like for example African or Native American art, was different and hence folkloristic. From the beginning the dialogue between Japan and the West was influenced by these attitudes. In several books of history and among several art historians, these perceptions seem to be hard to overcome. One can especially find this in the expressions of eOrientalism f, eFar East f or enative art f. At home Japanese modern artists had to fight orthodox systems and academical art institutions.
Through history, calligraphy, poetry and painting have been closely linked to each other. Calligraphers were also painters or poets, or poets were painters or sometimes calligraphers. So discussing calligraphy without mentioning poetry and even tea ceremony, is not giving the whole picture, but in this thesis, I refrain from discussing these topics because of limited time and space. I also disregard the mutual influence the Asian countries have had on each other, even though this dialogue has always been very important, even today.
The development of schools and lineages had a profound influence on Japanese art and is a distinctive trait of Japanese art. This is one of the things that modern artists of Japan has objected to and tried to abolish. Therefore I encounter this in my discussion.