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Less is More: Japanese Zen Paintings of the Edo Period (1615 – 1868)

June 23, 2006 - June 23, 2006

Curated by Barry Till. Zen is a meditative school of the Buddhist religion. The fundamental concept of Zen is said to have been brought to China from India by the Indian monk Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) in the 6th century. The primary aim of Zen Buddhism is personal enlightenment which, according to Daruma, cannot be found in books or elaborate rituals. Rather, it is to be found within the self through meditation.

Throughout 1615 to 1868 a new wave of Zen monk-painters revitalized the art of Zen painting. The dynamic imagery found in their work both inspired and delighted audiences. Sometimes the moral they wished to convey was clear and direct in a humourous and informative way; at other times it was more subtle. All non-essential imagery was eventually removed from their paintings, thus allowing the viewer to contemplate the inner spirit of the figure depicted. The paintings appear effortless in execution, leading one to believe that it is easy to produce such simplistic paintings. However, if attempted, one soon finds that it takes years of discipline to be able to convey such overwhelming simplicity in paint.

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