Friday, March 29, 2013

Master, be inspired, give - the Buddhist sculptures of Enkū

Enkū (円空) (1632–1695)  mastered the art of carving wooden Buddhist statues. After he mastered the specified patterns of the various Buddhist icons he started carving Buddhist icons in very moving, abstract expressionism (Buddhist icons are specified to look a certain way so that the icon, e.g. Yakushi Nyorai, Kanzeon etc. can be recognised). I wonder at the fact that Enkū was carving these abstract images 300 years before Picasso.

Enkū took his impressions and inspiration from the natural world and found a way to express it through his Buddhist sculptures. I think that Enkū reached a point where he no longer thought how to carve an image of a certain Buddhist icon, but rather, I think Enkū pursued how to express in his work both the Buddha that already dwell in the tree, and the spirit of the tree itself. His free forms are totally free from the bounds of convention, and they appear to come from a mind totally free from desire and ego. I think this is why his Buddhist sculptures still strike us so profoundly today. 

My way is the Way of Tea. But I still learn many things from Enkū that I can apply to my own art. One of the biggest things I learn from Enkū relates to not being fixed in one's own Tradition of Tea. Enkū teaches me it is essential that one masters their trade. But when you have mastered your trade you must not be bound by it. In an artistic sense, it is also essential that you pursue something outside the boundaries set by any particular creed.




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