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Toko Shinoda, renowned for abstract sumi ink art, dies at 107

Dalian-born Japanese artist fused traditional calligraphy with abstract expressionism

Toko Shinoda in 1956 traveled to New York, where she was exposed to abstract expressionism and drew attention for her distinctive style.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Toko Shinoda, a Japanese avant-garde artist internationally renowned for her unique style of abstract sumi ink paintings, has died of natural causes. She was 107.

Shinoda, whose real first name was Masuko, died in the early hours of Monday at a Tokyo hospital, her family said. Born in Dalian, Manchuria, in what is now northeastern China, Shinoda began her study of traditional calligraphy at an early age, shifting to abstract sumi paintings following World War II.

In 1956, she traveled to New York, where she was exposed to abstract expressionism and drew attention for her distinctive style that blended the traditional and the modern. After holding solo exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, she returned to Japan in 1958.

Her paintings are now predominantly found in the public collections, including The British Museum and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Shinoda was also passionate about architecture, designing murals for temples and public facilities including Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium. She continued to work and hold solo exhibitions even after becoming a centenarian.

While Shinoda refused to accept any prizes for her paintings or calligraphy, she was awarded the Japan Essayists' Club Award in 1979 for the first collection of her works "Sumi iro" (The Colors of Sumi). Her 2015 autobiography "103-sai ni natte wakatta koto" (Things I Learned After Turning 103) also became a bestseller.

Shinoda was the cousin of Japanese film director Masahiro Shinoda.

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