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A Dream—and a Once-in-a-Lifetime Joke

The idea came to me of doing the entire exhibition in one stroke.

Can we recycle as Nature does?

Can we recycle as Nature does? by Kazuaki Tanahashi

In January 1987, the coordinator of exhibits at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York invited me to exhibit my work in November in its Chapel of Saint Boniface. At that point, I defined my one-stroke painting as “a painting created in one breath in a single brushstroke, straight or curved.” I had created the genre in San Francisco a few years earlier, and it may be described as emerging from East Asian calligraphy, with influences from Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and my own lazy nature. I was overjoyed by the cathedral’s invitation.  I thought of the exhibition as a once-in-a-lifetime joke of mine, since a Gothic cathedral and one-stroke brushwork seemed to be extreme opposites of artistic creativity. While the cathedral’s construction started almost a cen­tury ago and is still going on, one-stroke painting often takes minutes or even seconds. But beyond this comparison, I wanted to touch upon the deeper meaning of the cathedral so that it would help me to explore a new realm in my art. In order to do so, I needed to ponder why people take such an enor­mous amount of time and energy …

From Painting Peace by Kazuaki Tanahashi © 2018 by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, Colorado. 

Kazuaki Tanahashi

Kazuaki Tanahashi is an artist, Buddhist scholar, and peace worker—the founding director of A World Without Armies as well as a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science. Born in Japan in 1933, he moved to the U.S. in 1977 to be a scholar in residence at the San Francisco Zen Center. While translating Zen master Dogen’s writ- ings, he developed the genre of one-stroke painting. A dream “and a once-in-a-lifetime joke” was to create an entire exhibition in a single stroke.

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