Shoko Kanazawa, a Japanese artist with down syndrome who is said to shine like the moon, is one of Japan’s renowned and contemporary calligraphers. She is popularly known as the artist with down syndrome, and her art explores the innocent and spiritual. She is known for often praying to the spirit of her late father before dipping her brush into her metallic bowl and attempting to paint anything.
Kanazawa paints large-scale, with her paintings spanning across walls, and they appear in the form of clouds and spirits merging into each other, made through ink and the deliberate dance of her brush against papers and walls. Her art speaks to everyone, especially those with troubles in their heart, looking for something to soothe them. For Shoko Kanazawa, her calligraphy is a way to give back to life what mother nature has given her.
Her talent was discovered at age five when her mother, a former calligraphy teacher and student, took Shoko Kanazawa lessons at home. Within a few years, in 2005, she was good enough to start exhibiting her work at temples, especially the one in Kyoto. The title of her first exhibition was “The World of Calligraphy,” It featured some of her earliest works and was organized in honor of her father’s wish to exhibit her works when she turned 20.
Born in 1985, she was born in Japan and has lived there all her life and has always been a painter and calligrapher. Her dream has always been to be like the moon. According to her, the moon was quiet yet always there, illuminating everything and everyone. That’s why her recent work of art is titled Tsukiakari, meaning moonlight: to illuminate the nighttime sky.
Here are some features of Shoko Kanazawa’s calligraphy:
1. Tender, yet filled with immediacy
One of Shoko Kanazawa’s works during the solo exhibition Story of Creation. Credit: Kyoto Art Box.
Shoko Kanazawa was born to the Kanazawa when her mother was 42, and although she was happy at first, her mother soon began to despair when she realized her child had down syndrome. While breastfeeding her and crying, baby Shoko reached out with a smile and wiped her mother’s tears. This attribute that was evident in her acts when she was still a suckling baby grew up with her and was always apparent in her art.
Kanazawa’s art is soft yet filled with the immediacy of one who has a message to pass and knows the message. The strong emotions evident in her paintings pull fans from all over the world and keep them captivated.
Known for her large-scale paintings, Kanazawa’s paintings are bold. Not only physically but in spirit, because through her artwork and her way of living, she gives other people with down syndrome hope. The message is simple: you are not defined by what other people say of you; you are defined by what you make of whatever situation you find yourself in.
Living independently and catering to her needs alone still surprises her mother, but that is the bold Shoko everyone knows.
Known for always praying to her late father, Shoko Kanazawa’s paintings merge spirituality and innocence together. This spirituality is soothing as the spirits know, understand, and will always be there for us through our struggles.
Shoko Kanazawa is an artist, painter, and calligrapher who is a worldwide sensation and will continue to be one because she’s defiling the odds and breaking bounds daily. And her calligraphy is used everywhere to decorate different places and invoke the spirit behind every brush stroke.