Zen Brushes

Under the influence of the meditation school in which I was involved, I understood more and more the inner problem of art… like, for example, the problem of decision. It was then that I discovered Japanese paper, and this paper taught me a lesson. I also started to use Japanese brushes which are totally different from the European in structure and in use. The European brush is made for painting from the wrist, the wrist is moving the brush and that which moves the wrist is, in the majority of cases, the mind. Whereas, Zen brush is moved from the whole body, and the painter paints with the whole, relaxed body, and with the mind and feeling which are in this body, all related. He is not aiming at an intellectual idea, but at being ‘here, now’ in the brushstroke… Such a brushstroke is a witness of the actual inner state of relationship between the various parts… of how much there is of mind, feeling or body… or maybe which part is predominant. It is, for a painter, an excellent instrument for study of his inner position in the moment of painting. So… one single brushstroke could be a painting… It has to be repeated hundreds of times, until it reaches this quality. Each time one starts from the beginning on a new piece of paper, until, as in calligraphy, everything is spontaneous. I have twice attended a demonstration of calligraphy by an Abbott of a Japanese monastery. He painted a calligraphic sign over a length of one and a half yard of paper in the duration of one breath, about three seconds. On one occasion, he used a very large oriental brush, on another, a roll of toilet paper dipped in ink. Q. And was it a fine stroke? A. No, it was not fine, but he wanted to produce a bold statement… On the front cover of the book: ‘Zen mind, beginners mind’ by Sunryu Suzuki, a Zen master who lived in the United States, appears a calligraphy by the author. Instead of using a brush, he used some grasses collected in the field, and then in the right moment made his statement. All that produces a quite unexpected result, and in between these sort of peculiar brush happenings you read the message.