Zen Art – Come Be Enlightened
Zen art emphasizes the essence of the subject, in that a statue of a sculpted marble ball may be the earth, a marble, a beach ball, or a falling tear. Once the artist decides that the subject is a tear, he may act in a flurry of motion, dizzying in its intensity as he hacks and hews at the marble, grinding it to a smooth polish as he journeys on his way to completion. To the Zen artist, deciding on a subject is well over half the battle of finishing a piece of art. This may well be the part of the process that takes up the most time. In fact, the subject may be reached upon deep meditation, as the artist probes his mind and soul for a subject that speaks of his inmost thoughts and intentions.
For the Zen artist, writing or calligraphy is not merely to convey words, but is an act of beautification in itself. Think of these marks upon a paper or your computer monitor: they convey an article about Zen art, do they not? But aren’t they also made up of circles and curves, angles and lines, something of a work of art? Even the font chosen for this article makes a statement; for example, these words are not printed in hard-to-read Old English Gothic or swirling Pristina script. No, they are in the font that is pleasing to the Western eye, the most legible for the purpose. In this way, you have skimmed the purpose of Zen art, to arrange things in a beautiful and meaningful way, perhaps unusual to you. Sometimes it is called ‘thinking outside the box.’
To say that Zen art is simple is a conundrum, for the media itself may be as elemental as a simple stroke of a calligraphy stylus in black ink that encompasses the meaning of ‘mountain slope.’ Art that grows from this simple stroke may be as profound as a depiction of a guru atop the solitude of his mountain peak, communing with his soul and Nature, or as simplistic as a mountain stream running downhill in a drawing devoid of any human subject. The title of the piece cannot be overemphasized, because the artist’s intention may be gleaned from a one-word name such as ‘Empathy.’ How to depict such a noun that is loaded with meaning is the work of the Zen artist as he links his own understanding of the term to his art. ‘Empathy’ may be one person holding another as he weeps, it may be a doll into whose deaf ears a child pours all her ambitions and tender words of love, and it may be as commonplace as a person viewing a tragedy on a newscast and reaching out with her feelings to hope for aid for the afflicted people. So many complex emotions may be conveyed by one simple word in Zen art.
The distillation of a subject into Zen art is not simple, yet anyone can understand the finished piece, because symbolism is not used in Zen art. A mountain is a mountain is a mountain, not a metaphor for anything other than itself. A collector who is looking for the purest way to convey art will enjoy Zen art all the more.
Zen Art – Come Be Enlightened