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  • Rob Will

Art and Flow

“Shū chū zo jitsugetsu (within one’s sleeves the sun and the moon are hidden.)"

From an ōbaku School Calligraphy piece by Master Mokuan (1611-1684), Japan

Flow is very important in Zen Art. I have studied this form of art for years and just now I was meditating on several paintings. The one mentioned above and also a One-Word Barrier piece by Nantenbo (1839-1925). The calligraphy on this painting reads, “Arrive! Free flowing water attains the ultimate.” Itanu, the “one word barrier” presented in this piece means both “proceed” and “arrive”.

​John Stevens, a modern calligrapher, martial artist and professor of Buddhist studies and Aikido at Tohoku University in Japan, offers an interesting commentary - or perhaps what one might call a declaration! - on this piece: “Flow like water around all obstacles and you will ultimately arrive at the ocean of enlightenment. Do not stagnate or get bogged down with petty concerns. Progress ever onward!”

Sometimes people will ask me to do a particular writing or piece of art and this is a difficult, nearly impossible thing for me to do. Art ideas come to me like music from the realm of Spheres. There is nothing forced. It is a Dionysian dance. Yes, there is a level of Apollonian control but it is movement that comes from another realm. I cannot force anything even if I wished to. It is a dance filed with rhythm, music and flow. I move with the flow of color, the eurythmic sense enlivening flow of music…and I just create. I do not see this as any type of limitation and I do not think I would have it any other way.

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