Vancouver’s MOA Launches New Exhibition, Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia

Hisao Yugami, Mikazuki, Crescent, 2015
Sumi ink on gasen paper mounted on wood panel

Lately, calligraphy has been experiencing a resurgence of interest as more people rediscover the art, craft, and expressive potential of this form of writing. In this digital age, both the ephemerality and permanence of words are intriguing.

One of my favourite museums in the city, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC, is launching a new exhibition that focuses on calligraphy, as well as other ways of capturing language. As someone who teaches literature and has had a lifelong obsession with words, this exhibition is definitely exciting and worth going to.

From May 11 to October 9, 2017, MOA is presenting Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia. The exhibition has made its geographical focus Asia, a region with an incredibly rich and diverse history, as well as a vibrant breath of linguistic systems.

Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Three Worlds 9, 2009; Acrylic on canvas;
Courtesy of the artist

Curator for Asia, Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura, has put together an exhibition that explores the wavering line between words as communication and words as art. She sees words as a trace of expression that is unique to humans, but interpreted and reinterpreted in a multitude of ways through different media. Displays include paintings, digital and mixed media art, and calligraphy that appear on paper, clay, woodblock, digital projections, and silk.

Shamsia Hassani, What about the dead fish? 2011; Paint on the ruins of Russian Cultural Centre, Kabul; Courtesy of the artist

Many of the words are concrete and have permanence, while others are less tangibly recorded, or even virtual. The displays explore meaning attached to words, and the complexities of encountering what first appears “foreign.”

Kimura Tsubasa, Outline, 2007;
Sumi ink on faille fabric, 117cm x 700cm each courtesy of the artist. Photo: Fuyubi Nakamura

Expect to see a variety of cultural artifacts, from Afghan graffiti to Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions. Their traces are different, but connected through their desire to record and to play with words, art, and memory. Pieces are drawn from the Aga Khan Museum (eg Islamic calligraphy), as well as MOA’s Asian collection (eg calligraphy by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen).

Six international contemporary artists are featured: Shamsia Hassani (Iran), Kimura Tsubasa (Japan), Nortse (Tibet), Phaptawan Suwannakudt (Thailand), Yugami Hisao (Japan), and teamLab (Japan).

There is also a free satellite display of Asian materials during May at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (level 2) from the UBC Library Collections.

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