Aoi Yamaguchi Explores the Physical Aspects of Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy originates from ancient Chinese calligraphy. These days, calligraphy is still very much alive, occupying spaces like formal invitations and religious art. Japanese calligrapher Aoi Yamaguchi treats it as a form of performative art.

Born in Hokkaido, Japan, Yamaguchi began her calligraphy training at the mere age of six, studying the basics under the guidance of Master Zuiho Sato. Having moved to the US in 2004, she now combines her art with performance, transforming its two-dimensional form into a 3-dimensional presence.

According to Yamaguchi, the practice of calligraphy is very much physical. “Calligraphy is like karate,” she explained in an interview with 99u. “Until you get the black belt, you have so many ranks to move through.”

“Studying calligraphy is really physical,” she went on to say, “and I was a perfectionist. I would look at my master’s work and try to write it exactly the same, following his brushstroke. My work wouldn’t come out the same, so I’d get frustrated. However, I’m really persistent, so I would strain my back over a sheet of paper, practicing for hours until I could write something nearly identical to my master.”

Her hard work paid off. Over the years Yamaguchi has won numerous awards, including the First Place prize from the Minister of Education at the 44th Asahi Calligraphy Nationwide School Exhibit and the Superior First Place at the 33rd National Students Calligraphy Exhibition.

And while her work is considered contemporary (exploring the meeting point between traditional Eastern classics and modern artistic expression), she still draws from her cultural upbringing, breathing new life into this all but forgotten art form.