Archive: Toko Shinoda

The centenarian artist who married calligraphy with Tokyo’s post-war avant-garde.

Issue 32

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Arts & Culture

“Okada asked, ‘Are you good?’ Shinoda replied, ‘I think so.’”

The prevailing theory of modern and contemporary art is that influence flows from West to East. The life and legacy of Toko Shinoda—who turned 106 this year—is a riposte to this, and much else beside. Her Sumi ink paintings hang in the most important museums in the world and belong in collections owned by the Imperial family of Japan and the Rockefellers of New York. “I grew to admire Shinoda immensely, especially the way in which she balanced simplicity and strength,” David Rockefeller once wrote. “Her art had a distinctiveness and power of its own, and was in no way derivative.”

Today, Shinoda still lives in central Tokyo. She is deaf, and doesn’t conduct interviews. Not confident in her memory, she has also stopped publishing essays. But she still paints: the same soari...

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