In the Orient Zen has strongly influenced art and given rise to a highly refined aesthetic sense which imparts a distinctive trait that is immediately and universally recognizable thanks to the implementation of the basic qualities of form and color. Japanese painting employing ink on paper, Japanese black lacquer work and Zen gardens are the best-known examples of this. In any case Zen thought has a universal nature and we hold that artistic experimentation, also in the West, especially in a globalized world where artistic expression seems to be suffering a serious crisis, cannot develop further without the spiritual message of Zen.
Artistic creation has its origin in a mindless space, which can be better considered as internal peace. In this state intuition or the creative impulse arises, and this impels the artist to achieve an aesthetic result that is immediate and spontaneous, without frills, and which at the same time possesses great vitality.
A Chinese painter once had the task of painting the Emperor`s favorite goat. The artist asked to be able to study the goat. After two years the Emperor, who had become rather impatient, requested to have the goat back and asked about the painting. The artist confessed that he had not yet done it and with an ink pen spontaneously drew eight continuous figures, thus creating the most perfect goat in the history of Chinese painting.
The school of thought which underlies our works is Zen, basically, because it represents the intuition which becomes awareness of the “here and now”, of the possibility of being able to employ only the present moment. The simplicity of such a concept contrasts with the difficulty that one encounters in making it come alive, in as much as it presupposes the ability to control the mind, which tends to lead us into the past and project us into the future, thus creating labyrinths and continuous illusory desires.
We do not accept the identification of a human being with his mind, which has as a consequence the transformation of human relationships into sources of pain, dominated by problems and conflicts. We believe that the mind is an instrument of man, not the man himself. We recognize and accept the reality of every situation without trying to escape from it or to desire that things should be different. We believe that by means of such a recognition and acceptance of facts, one reaches a degree of freedom from them. It is this “knowledge” that creates a peaceful tranquility in man that transforms the lack of peace into peace. We are of the opinion that we have had this experience, and for this reason we affirm it.
By means of art one can seize the creative moment of the present, and, if one so wishes, promulgate all of its limitless force, an expression, as it were, of the divine element that also exists in every human being. The artist expresses the enlightenment of an instant (the creative act) in which he aligns himself in perfect harmony with the essence of nature, thus penetrating the deep structure of the world that surrounds him.
We ascribe to the seven principles of Zen aesthetics as canonized by the Master Schin'ichi Hisamatsu (1889-1980) and which characterize a work of art according to Zen canons, namely:
1. FUKINSEI (asperity or asymmetry) - that which appreciates the special beauty of what is fragmented, sparse, invisible because of subtraction, the erasure of lines and colors, the splinters of materials and images;
2. KANSO (sobriety) - that which avoids what is complicated and elaborate in search of a solid, spontaneous and simple beauty;
3. KOKO (austere dignity) – that which seeks to grasp the essence of archetypes that reach back into the recesses of time;
4. SHIZEN (naturalness) – that which gleans its inspiration from nature in order to understand its innermost essence;
5. YUGEN (impenetrability, implication) - that which by means of the void leaves space for inexhaustible imagination;
6. DAISUZOKU (freedom from every attachment) – that which by means of freedom from every fixed scheme of things allows us to act as if playing a game and to overcome attachment to things and the blocks that stem from them;
7. SEIJAKU (peace) - that which by means of relaxed calm allows us to grasp the essence of things.
Obviously not all works of art will manifest these principles to the same extent and with the same intensity, but all of them will be able to be considered as Zen Art, an expression that simultaneously refers both to a particular aesthetic and a specific method of artistic creation.