Zenga from the Kaeru-an Collection

21.02.2008 to 08.06.2008

An exhibition of the Museum of Asian Art, East Asian Art Collections, in the galleries for Japanese Paintings and Religious Art of East Asia

Zenga - calligraphies and paintings by Zen Buddhist masters impress through radical reduction of form, simple yet dynamic brushwork, unusual juxtapositions of word and image and occasional outbursts of humour. These aesthetic qualities have earned Zenga many admirers. However, to the practitioner of Zen Buddhism the frequently paradox messages of Zenga are first and foremost documents of their forerunners active engagement with the contradictions of the human existence and models for the quest for enlightenment, that invite the beholder to renewed contemplation.

The encounter with a calligraphy at the Asian Art Museum Berlin inspired the Dutch physicist and artist Dr. Felix Hess to assemble more than four-hundred Zenga. The exhibition presents for the first time a selection of forty scroll paintings from his Kaeru-an (frog hut) collection. About a dozen of these will be replaced on April 14th bringing up the total number of exhibits to fifty. They range in date from the 17th to the 20th century. Images of the legendary first patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma (jap. Daruma) and other Zen exemplars are displayed together with calligraphies of mottos, riddles and poems of the masters, right down to simple landscapes, images of plants, animals and even quotidian objects that illustrate the realisation of Zen in everyday situations. The exhibition is an invitation to encounter these images, words and contents of Zenga.