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Calligrapher from Japan Shares Art with Willamette Students

Willamette students had the rare opportunity this week to learn the art of calligraphy from Toshiharu “Kunpei” Kawachi, a Japanese and Chinese calligraphy expert.

Kawachi, a professor of calligraphy and the director of the Institute for Research of Humanities at Daito Bunka University in Tokyo, spent three days on campus to teach his art form to students in Japanese Studies, Chinese Studies, College Colloquium and art classes.

His visit to Willamette was funded by the Kaneko Educational Foundation (KEF) and hosted by the Willamette University Center for Asian Studies and Tokyo International University of America (TIUA), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Kawachi began studying calligraphy from his mother when he was 6, and today he is a leading expert on Japanese, Chinese and other East Asian calligraphy as well as an exhibiting calligrapher. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art from University of Tsukuba (Tokyo), and went on to earn a second master's in literature, as well as a doctorate in Chinese Studies.

Most of his calligraphy is based on ancient Chinese characters and includes words of wisdom by famous Chinese poets and philosophers. Many of his works are done in the “spontaneous style” in which he matches the calligraphic style with the sentiments expressed in the original Chinese characters that constitute his text.

The catalogue Brush and Ink says of Kawachi’s works: “Calligraphy is an homage to the written word in the fractured landscape of time. The preference for ink and paper is important precisely because these are materials long shared by the calligrapher and the poet in East Asia. Sometimes, calligraphy is compared to the splatters, scrawls, and drips of abstract painting, and to minimalism due to its reconfiguration of basic components into novel combinations. However, the fundamental concern for literary contexts and brush conventions make calligraphy a distinctive art form.”