Avant-Garde Calligraphy between Postwar Japan, Europe, and the United States

Third Thursday Lectures
Thursday 17 Jan 2019 | 6pm

Weston Room, Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4DH

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

About the Talk

As the French theoretician of abstract art Michel Seuphor wrote in 1962, “in the 1960s, every abstract painter is fascinated by the East, dreams of visiting Japan, perhaps to find the delights of Japanese calligraphy.” This talk is dedicated to the artists who launched and fuelled this fascination.

In the early postwar years, avant-garde calligraphers from Japan radically transformed their art with the aim of bringing calligraphy to the same level of recognition as abstract painting. In order to reach this goal, they launched creative collaborations with European Art Informel artists and American Abstract Expressionists, and soon started sharing exhibition spaces with them at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Documenta in Kassel, São Paulo Biennale, and Carnegie International.

This talk will introduce the connection between Japanese avant-garde calligraphers and abstract painters from Europe and the United States as one of the most fascinating examples of the early postwar global art exchanges, drawing attention to calligraphy as a phenomenon of the global postwar avant-garde.

About the Speaker

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer is Lecturer in Japanese Arts, Culture, and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, which is affiliated to the University of East Anglia.

She is an art historian specialising in modern Japanese art. She received her Ph.D. from Heidelberg University in 2016 and since then held postdoctoral positions at Emory University, Atlanta, GA and Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C. Her research interests include postwar art in Japan; modern calligraphy history in East Asia; transcultural studies; abstract art; and the relationship between image and language in Japanese art. She is currently working on her book manuscript People of the Ink: Japanese Avant-Garde Calligraphers in Postwar Abstract Art.

About the Third Thursday Lecture Series

The Third Thursday Lectures hosted by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures are on a range of topics related to the art and culture of Japan. Talks begin at 6pm (50-minute lecture followed by refreshments). Speakers are all specialists in their field and the talks are intended to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of Japanese history.

Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential. To book your seat, please go to the booking form or email the Sainsbury Institute

Image: Inoue Yūichi, Zhuang Zhou Dreaming of a Butterfly (oracle bone script), 1951. Collage; ink on paper; 31.0×35.0 cm, fragment.

Future Lectures

21 February 2019, 6pm
Mermaids and Snow Crystals in the Great Chain of Being
Dr Mateja Kovacic
British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Oxford
Book here

The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult.


This event is part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020.

Related Events

19 May 2018
With exhibition catalogue contribution by
Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer