Zen and the art of the ensō
“At every level, physical, subtle & causal
there are invisible patterns of unity & oneness
interconnecting all the worlds.”
—Hans Jenny, physician & natural scientist
ROBERTA PYX SUTHERLAND is a Canadian artist based in Victoria, British Columbia. From her first solo exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery in the 1980s, her work has focused on the relationships of cosmic patterning, divine intelligence, the environment and the interconnectivity of all life forms. She has worked for Oxfam in East Africa, where she initiated a ceramic school, as well as studied Zen and calligraphy in Japan and mandala painting in Boudnath, Nepal.
In a previous piece on The Culturium, Roberta detailed her passion for painting and the visual arts and the way in which they help our understanding of the mystical realm. In this month’s guest post, she reiterates her creative process as it manifests through the theme she returns to time and again, namely the sacred and timeless execution of the ensō.
‘Greater Silence’ is an ongoing series of ink paintings that have emerged from previous Zen practice. The brush creates circles that continually repeat, without erasure or measurement.
The body focuses on the rhythm of the breath, activating the brush on each exhale. Mutations in the series are created by changes in brush width, ink density and the type of paper used.
When the order of the circle is allowed to be determined by these and other environmental factors, the ‘fields’ become spontaneous with variations that appear as random. These fields of concentrated, repeated gestures create infinite and ambiguous possibilities.
Stability is found within the exhale by consistently following the breath, recording the attention, placed, again and again, fully absorbed in the stroke of brush with ink on paper. Here is the opportunity for opening to a larger context of internal spaciousness as painting becomes a trusted method of meditation.
- Roberta Pyx Sutherland’s website
- Roberta Pyx Sutherland: Ensō Variations
- Wassily Kandinsky: Concerning the Spiritual in Art
- Agnes Martin: Writings
- Chris Jordan: Beauty Emerging
- Matsuo Bashō: Deep Silence
- Ajahn Sumedho: The Sound of Silence