Immersion in Seeing

prof. Joanna Stasiak
(Collegium of Art Education, The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw)

I think that practicing of painting and Zen are analogical. The Polish painters who are important to me: Jan Dziędziora, Janusz Kaczmarski, Józef Czapski, or Stanisław Baj, are making statements strikingly similar to those made by Jakusho Kwong, or Shunryū Suzuki, the masters of Zen. I want to find common grounds for them and think a bit more closely about why they paid so much attention to light, shade and reflection, which usually escape our everyday perception. For the painters they become the phenomena that release the unrepeatable sense of the world and every seen moment. The aim of Zen practice, according to Shunryū Suzuki, is to always keep the mind of the beginner – the mind that is surprised by seeing, by the world seen anew. This is how Józef Czapski was able to see the world, which he described in a letter to a friend: “I discover that seeing an old big yellow saddle cloth hung on the easel can be an experience as sublime as seeing the most beautiful mountain in Switzerland”.

Painting is similar to Zen also in its conviction that the work has to start from oneself – from the body, from the hand with a brush. “To study oneself is to go beyond oneself” – wrote Dōgen Kigen, master of Zen, who brought Zen sōtō Buddhism teaching to Japan. I recognize this self-focus aimed at “going beyond oneself” and becoming “enlightened by all things” i.a. in the works of Jan Dziędziora. This painter created no more than twenty oeuvres, which he constantly repainted. He demanded from himself “an honest and brave observation” and he was sure that only by starting from himself he can say something about another person.

What is also close to Zen is a feeling that the master – old or present – is a measure of our own path; he is the one with whom we struggle to take hold of our own, unique way. I will be looking for these forking paths of painting and Zen so that my art can seize this talisman of seeing. Being present.