Zen teaches us not merely to hear, but to listen; not just to look, but to see; not only to think, but to experience; and above all not to cling to what we know, but to accept and rejoice the world we may encounter.
Zen has been called “a teaching without words” because Zen monks train their students to break the bonds of dualistic and logical thinking in order to reach the state of enlightenment. Words are not taken as direct truth, but rather as one of many ways to convey meaning through experience. Art is a part of Zen training and has a long history. About one thousand years ago, Chinese Zen monks occasionally used painting as a teaching tool drawing a circle in the air to suggest more than words could explain or creating ink paintings for their students to meditate upon.
The first Japanese artists to work in ink monochrome paintings were Zen monks who painted in dramatically bold, seemingly impetuous, and bluntly immediate manner, to express their religious views and personal convictions. The paintings produced by Zen monks are functional, there is a direct connection between the images and Zen teaching. It has long been believed in East Asia that brush and ink reveal the true character of the artist so that viewing a painting is a form of communication with the inner spirit of the person who created it.
Ikko Fukuyama is a Zen monk who trained at Eiheiji, the head Temple of Soto Zen School. He also graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts (PhD in Japanese Painting). The life of Zen and the inner spirit of Fukuyama may be implied in his landscape paintings. He studied and practiced Zen for a long time and was raised in an environment of Zen. “I do not know whether my art is affected by Zen religion but it could be a blood of mine”, said by the artist.