Both feet firmly planted on the ground; your knees slightly bent; back straight and slightly tucked chin; breathing calmly. Now, you are in the perfect posture to discover and enjoy Seeing Zen, the exhibition of Zenga masterpieces at Villa Empain until late January.

In the half-light of the villa’s mezzanine, the 60 inks on paper pasted on silk scrolls are a marvel. Their sight nourishes the soul much more than the Decor exhibition which opened in September on the ground floor and first floor of the Boghossian Foundation and presents artists who break down the boundaries of art as a concept that should be separated from the decorative object. They open up a new dialogue between art and decorative arts that had disappeared since the beginning of the 19th century. Carl Andre in the main lobby. Marcel Broodthaers and Daniel Buren on the rear windows of the building, Warhol and his silver pillows and ruffles, or Rosemarie Trockel in this building where each architectural element is in itself a decoration. Even though the idea behind Decor is relevant and interesting, the exhibition itself lacks emotion. The best thing is to make your way to the mezzanine as fast as you can!

Zenga means seeing Zen through the vehicle of painting. Zenga reflects Zen ideals: Zen is a meditation practice that leads to awakening, enlightenment and self-knowledge. Neither theory, nor religion, nor belief, Zen is a practice. Originating in India, it spread through China and culminated in Japan from the 1600 during the Edo period. The exhibition shows 60 masterpieces from the 14th to the 20th century by artists who painted not to create a work of art but to offer a tool to practice Zen. These scrolls come from Felix Hess’s Kaeru-An collection, one of the largest Zenga collections in Europe.

These artists themselves had to be in a state of great relaxation, both focused (a much used term these days) and present in their hand and the brush it held. “I express my teaching using a brush and ink instead of my tongue; you seize the meaning of the words with your eyes,” one of them wrote. Each painting is accompanied by a few words, which are translated on the information labels. For instance, “The bright moon is in the centre of the sky.” Or “If you stay on (The Cold Mountain) for ten years, you will definitely forget the way back home.” Or “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form!” The circle, a silhouette of someone meditating, a mountain, a dragon, a frog: it takes our eye only one second to understand all these simple symbols. One second leading to many hours of meditation, of course! Every Monday at 12.30 pm until December 19th, the Villa Empain is offering a one-hour meditation coached by a Zen master. Another reason to go there!

Seeing Zen
Fondation Boghossian – Villa Empain
67 avenue Fr. Roosevelt
1050 Brussels
Until 29 January
Tuesdays – Sundays, from 11:00h to 18:00h 
Meditation every Monday at 12:30h until 19 December 
www.fondationboghossian.be

Seeing Zen, Zenga

Nakagawa Söen, vélo, Seeing Zen

Seeing Zen, Zenga

Yamaoka Tessü, Grues, Seeing Zen

Seeing Zen, Zenga

Yamaoka Tessü, Seeing Zen

Seeing Zen, Zenga

Töshü Emyö, Mont Fuji Zen, Seeing Zen

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