Featured Artist: Toko Shinoda



Toko Shinoda (March 28, 1913 – March 1, 2021) was a Japanese artist working with sumi ink paintings and prints. Her art merged traditional calligraphy with modern abstract expressionism. A 1983 interview in Time magazine asserted “her trail-blazing accomplishments are analogous to Picasso’s”.

Shinoda’s works had been exhibited in the Hague National Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cincinnati Art Museum and other leading museums in the world.

She considered herself as not belonging to a particular school or style, but works all by herself.

The artist preferred her paintings and original drawings, because sumi ink presents unlimited color spectrum. Her paintings are primarily monochromatic, using sumi black, with some use of cinnabar, gold, silver, or platinum. In printmaking, Shinoda used lithograph as her medium. Unlike woodcut that requires chisel, or etching that requires acid, lithograph allowed Shinoda to work directly and spontaneously on the plate with her fluid brushstroke.

Shinoda’s strokes were meant to suggest images and vitality of nature. She said, “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.” [citation needed]

Shinoda’s print editions are small, usually ranging from twelve to fifty-five, and after each edition has been pulled, she often added a stroke or two of sumi color by hand to each print.

For her, expression is love. She considered however that she had not yet been able to convey that expression. She had been quoted as not being satisfied in finding that perfect line in her work.

This photo and the following comes from a profile article in The Japan Times, May 2013:

“In practicing her art, Shinoda wields the concept of yohaku (empty space) with incredible precision. Not only does she place design elements elegantly in two dimensions, but she has also developed this sense in three dimensions, as is witnessed by numerous works executed as architectural elements.”