"Zen" by Nate Lonnen 24"x48" Acrylic on Canvas
How do I begin to talk about a piece that so closely resembles my intimate battle? Zen is the sister painting of Bushido, a commission painting that I ultimately created for a very good friend of mine. They both in ways are very similar but in essence very different. Zen is the manifestation of my belief of what true peace would look like if I found harmony within myself. This is the battle I wage everyday not only while I am awake but also and many times more when I am asleep. With this piece, I wanted to manifest the pivotal roles that these opposing and yet interconnecting forces play in our natures. While also, presenting the struggle between the two, resulting in the personification of this battle in us all. The choices we make define our existence and put us on different paths of self-realization and inner serenity.
Buddhism is a belief centralized around the idea of harmony between yin and yang (Zen). This is why I used the monk as the central piece in the painting. It is a clear representation of the whole idea around the Opposing Forces series and the idea of harmony is essential in understanding this piece. This monk is a reflection of myself as this picture is a representation of what I strive to achieve. It is no coincidence that the monk is sitting on a rock and staring into a tremendous moon. I use the rock as a place of stability and strength, while the moon signifies a majestic and supernatural type power. We always need to be looking towards the future and never stare too long at what’s behind. That isn’t to say that in meditation and contemplation you shouldn’t look inward and learn from your mistakes or history. But you should always strive to look ahead and towards the wider future and the bigger world.
I always have to look into myself and wonder if I am on the right path. Have I chosen correctly and what awaits me in my future? I forever contemplate Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not taken”.
I have my path leading to a spirit house, which on top has Zen stones balancing. Around the spirit house is also the circular symbol for Zen itself. I will not try to interpret what Zen means because for each and everyone one of us it could be minutely different or we could be worlds apart. But for the sake of this painting I will say that it is a form of self-awareness, enlightenment and harmony. The Zen stones represent various elements of life while also reflecting the balance between man and nature.
Now, lets get to the tree and the 2 warriors. I wanted the tree to imitate the Bonsai tree while also acting as the embodiment of the tree of life. There are many reasons why I picked the Bonsai tree to symbolize my tree of life and if you read up a little on them I am sure you will understand why (I can’t give you everything).
The warriors: the duality of the warrior spirit; the infinite struggle between the spirits fierceness and its desire to find peace and enlightenment. The warriors so representational: Light/Dark, Yin/Yang, Good/Evil. There is a warrior spirit within us all and that is the pillar of what the Opposing Forces series is all about. We must have the willingness to fight for what we believe in, (wrong or right) because that is what defines us. So we will fight, we will persevere; we can and we must.
Lastly, let’s discuss the use of color, or the lack there of. Black, whites and grays seemed only fitting for the centerpiece of the Opposing Forces series. Every stroke has significance. The moon is not just made up of light; it also has dark and grays. The spirit house is a lighted pathway. The robes of the monk (the epitome of self) are a spectrum of black and white. When you realize what each stroke represents you come to better understand what Zen embodies for you. So never stop that inner self-discussion and find harmony in your struggle.