An exhibition of sumi art (ink art), a style combining calligraphy and painting, by Byakko Kashiwagi is running from today to Jan. 14 at Gallery ef in Tokyo's Asakusa.

Calligraphy is one of the traditional arts of Japan. There are several types of paintings created by using sumi, including suibokuga and sumi-e, both terms that can be translated as "Indian ink painting."

The difference between the two is that suibokuga artworks are black-and-white only, whereas sumi-e can be tinted with a special type of paint used in nihonga (Japanese painting).

In this exhibition, Kashiwagi gives a whole different angle to traditional calligraphy with her innovative take on sumi art.

Born in Oita Prefecture, Kashiwagi began her artistic career as a calligrapher, becoming an award-winning master whose beautiful works were recognized by a number of prizes, including the grand prize of Mainichi Joryu-ten (Mainichi Exhibition of Women Artists) in 1988.

Since her retirement from the world of calligraphy in 1992, she has been experimenting with her characteristic blend of sumi-paintings and poems, while collaborating with artists from other fields, such as music and nihon buyo (Japanese traditional dance). From 1993 to 1994, Kashiwagi visited Nepal and India to study Sanskrit literature -- an influence which is evident in many of the works on display here.

The artist has also traveled round the world conducting demonstrations and workshops of Japanese calligraphy, an initiative which Kashiwagi began herself. Her aim is to provide an opportunity for Japanese and foreign children to communicate with each other through calligraphy.

Through Kashiwagi's installations and sumi art, viewers enter a world that has transcended all borders -- including those of religion and nationality. The message of harmony between all humankind offered by these beautiful, gentle works is especially timely for Christmas and the New Year.