Toko Shinoda: Japan’s Picasso Still Going Strong At 107 | CoolJapan

Toko Shinoda, who just turned 107 this year, was compared to Picasso by Time magazine in 1983. One of the world’s oldest practising artists, as well as one of its most accomplished, her works are highly sought after.

A portrait of the artist Toko Shinoda

Producing work at a photography studio in New York in 1956. Photography by Hams Namuth

Working with sumi ink, her style is effervescent and captures the lightness and essence of the moment, merging traditional calligraphy with modern abstract expressionism. Her works have been exhibited in the world’s best museums like the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum in New York, as well as the British Museum in London.

Moon, 1978, Sumi, Silver Paint

Moon, 1978, Sumi, Silver Paint, Silver Leaf on Paper 149.0x104.0cm, Gifu Collection of Modern Arts

Born in 1913 into a wealthy family in Dalian, Manchuria, where her father managed a tobacco factory, her family returned to Japan when Shinoda turned two years old. Influenced by her father's love of sumi ink for painting, calligraphy and Chinese poetry, Shinoda practised calligraphy at the tender age of six. By the age of 27, she had her first solo exhibition in Kyukyodo Gallery in 1940.

Toko Shinoda Twilight

Twilight, 1999, Sumi, Silver Paint on Paper, 45.0x70.0cm, Gifu Collection of Modern Arts

Toko Shinoda Eager

Eager, 2001, lithograph, hand-added materials, 80.6x62.3cm, Gifu Collection of Modern Arts

She also came into contact with the works of Jackson Pollock, which left a deep impression on her during her stay in the United States from 1956 to 1958.  Despite having the same art dealer who represented Pollock, she never got to meet the reclusive artist as he passed away in a drunk-driving accident just two weeks before she arrived in New York.

While her paintings are primarily monochromatic, Shinoda often adds a dash of vermillion in her prints, inspired by the corrections made by her calligraphy teacher on her homework when she was young.

Flower Petals, 2002, lithograph, hand-added materials, 38.0x28.0cm, Gifu Collection of Modern Arts

Unlike woodcut that requires chisel or etching that requires acid, Shinoda prefers lithography, which allows her to work directly and spontaneously on the plate with her fluid brushstroke.  Her effectively minimalist compositions often evoke the enduring power of nature that her brush strokes represent.  Always seeking that perfect line, she remains married only to her work.

When you have the chance to visit the Gifu or Tokai region, you may appreciate Toko Shinoda's works up-close at the Gifu Collection of Modern Arts, which carries over 800 pieces of her works.