Ryoko Adachi

Language of Shape

Ryoko Adachi

Language of Shape



Edition Size



Inkjet, Letterpress, Lithograph




Artist Book


12 × 7 × 1 in




Tokyo, Japan

$ 1,800.00

2 in stock

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Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

Letterform Archive

School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts

Smith College

St. Olaf College

University of California, Irvine (UCI)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), William Andrews Clark Library

University of Illinois

University of Wisconsin, Kohler Art Library

Language of Shape consists of two hand-bound books and one folded lithograph encased in a flat box. The first book All the original Japanese texts and their English translations are laid out together as part of the design.

“If nature could talk to us in words, what would it be saying now? With no boundaries between living and non-living things, I hope my idea of “shapes as letters” inspires readers to imagine the respective messages of diverse beings on the planet. I created Language of Shape as a gesture of appreciation – and reminder – of the delicate and exquisite natural world that we all embrace and share.

The first book is printed on black Japanese paper, Language of ShapeN.U. Read the Snow, is a poem interlaced with the words of Japanese scientists, Nakaya Ukichiro and Terada Torahiko. “Snowflakes are letters sent from the sky.”, said Nakaya, who dedicated his research to the relationship between mid-air weather conditions and the shape of snow crystals. On the back pages of the poem are lithographs of sodium sulfate crystals that I grew myself, photographed, arranged as “type”, and then printed in silver ink. While they are reminiscent of Nakaya’s “letters from the sky”, they may also suggest the existence of numerous undiscovered languages and their precious messages in the world. Each reed-shaped page is folded in three measures 90 cm long and unfolds vertically. The pages are fixed to an accordion pleat (like a concertina binding) with thinly cut Japanese paper. As different folded edges are bound to the pleat, each spread opens with a different number of pages towards the top and bottom, changing the format of the book as the reader goes through it. (Lithography on Ise Iroshibu paper; Dimension: 30 x 17.5 cm, 36 pages)

The second book, White Scenery, incorporates a close-up of yogurt I photographed in the kitchen, to complement Nakaya Ukichiro’s descriptions of Alaskan and Arctic landscapes which I quoted from his essay. While studying snow, Nakaya also conducted research on ice in the polar regions. A teacher of Nakaya, Terada Torahiko once explained the mechanism of meteorological phenomena such as rainbows, fog, and heat haze with just a bowl of hot water, in his essay A Bowl of Hot Water (Chawan no Yu).

This essay helped me conceive all phenomena on the earth as part of one continuous connection, from the palm of one’s hand to the end of the universe. It is my hope that readers might visualize the majestic polar vista while looking at my “yogurt landscape”, and that it evokes a sense of the connectedness of all things as Terada’s passage did for me. (Resin letterpress and inkjet on Bafun paper; Dimension: 30 x 17.5 cm, 16 pages)

The third element is a folded lithograph printed on thin Japanese paper. The image is one of the photographs of the sodium sulfate crystals before they became the “type” that was composed and printed on black Japanese paper in the first book. (Lithography on Bicchu Torinoko Ganpi paper; Dimension: 40 x 60 cm)

Part of the poem in the first black book reads:
Being is words
words touch the heart
their meaning
is shared with others

– Ryoko Adachi, Tokyo, Japan