Artist Statement - Nigel Black
“The Golden Rule: love thy neighbour,” I recognised this as a perspective resonant with Buddhist practice and understanding. Buddhist practice is the path of compassion and liberation taught by the Buddha, a practice based in the realisation that everything changes, and that nothing can be by itself alone. The central practice of Buddhism is meditation, being mindfully present to the conditions of life moment-to-moment.
When asked to create an image for this exhibition, I offered to make a circle, in the spirit of O’Sensei Kazuaki Tanahashi, my teacher. A Zen calligraphic circle (J. ensō) is created in one breath and one stroke. There are no touch ups. There is no going back, as in life. It is a raw reflection of what took place in the moment that the circle was brushed. It is also traditionally regarded as a reflection of the quality of mind of the practitioner.
For this exhibition I added to the complexity of my circle making. Traditionally Zen calligraphy is black and does not use acrylic or canvas, but ink and paper. However, I chose to experiment with materials and add colour, in the same way Kaz does for some of his experiments. I had to build my brushes, and I had to use them in a different way than I was used to. On one hand, by applying different colours in one circle I was attempting to communicate that even though we may be different in our ideas and ways of living, we cannot be by ourselves alone, we cannot be separate, just as waves cannot be separate from each other as they are not separate from the ocean. On the other hand, in brushing the circle itself I let go of intention and simply practiced enjoying being present in that moment of brushing the circle. In my tradition, that of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, we say, “we are the waves of one sea, we are the stars of one sky, we are the leaves of one tree, the time has come for all to live as one”—I would like to add, “we are the neighbours of one collective body.” Dear friends, let us practice loving our neighbours together, recognising that we are not separate, and that it is not possible to have a neighbour without being one.
My aspiration is that the expressions of this exhibition inspire us to practice being present, so that we can recognise and transform our discriminative habits when they arise, always asking ourselves, “Are you sure?”.