Zen Art

Mayumi Oda, contemporary Zen artist

After three months of traveling to Europe and Israel, I am now back home in Honolulu. I visited my friend Felix Hess in Haren, the Netherlands, and we worked together on Kaeru-an, his wonderful collection of Zen Art, perhaps the largest such collection in the West.


Currently on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art (through January 13, 2013) is Mayumi Oda’s exhibition “A Prayer for the New Birth of Japan.” The exhibition consists of paintings mounted on hanging scrolls, hand scrolls, framed pieces, and screens. All of the paintings by Mayumi were created in the last year, using traditional materials—ink, brushes, and paper—hand-crafted in the ancient district of Nara. All of the scrolls and screens are mounted in the classical style by Mr. Yoshimura, a scroll maker from Nara.


Although Mayumi, a well-known artist and activist, is noted for her serigraphs, the outstanding feature of this exhibition is that all the pieces are original hand-painted works of art. At the opening ceremony there were Hawaiian, Shinto, and Buddhist prayer services. This is most fitting, since the artwork in the exhibition has Hawaiian, Shinto, or Buddhist themes, respectively. The rich, natural colors used by Mayumi are vibrant, pure and deep. “A Prayer for the New Birth of Japan” refers of course to the recent chain of tragic events in Japan, but the exhibition is also an appeal for all of us to be reborn.


Unfortunately there is no catalog, but the book Merciful Sea: 45 Years of Serigraphs by Mayumi Oda is available from Robyn Buntin Gallery. The gallery website has many examples of Mayumi’s work.



Zazen Oni by Motsugai (1795-1867). Kaeru-an Collection.






Enso by Mayumi Oda. The inscription: Kenshiki Myoshin, “Seeing the Form, Brightens the Mind.” Shiki is the “form” of “emptiness is form, form is emptiness.” The meaning is “Perceive the true form of reality, and your mind is enlightened.” Signed “Ekai Yumyo,” Mayumi’s Buddhist name, meaning “Merciful Sea,” and “Mysterious Depth Knowing.” From the “Prayer for the New Birth of Japan” exhibition.

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