Zen Art of Johndennis Govert

In grade school I wrote with pens filled with fluid inks on porous paper that absorbed ink into so many blotches. Its aftermath was often a mess of black and blue indelible smears on hands, shirts and homework. A good hand was the ability to produce consistently beautiful script that energized a whole page even though it slowed the eyes of the reader. That experience of hand writing was very different from what I would pursue decades later when several influences unwittingly converged to connect me with shodo, the way of the brush.

One influence was my encounter with the I Ching.  The six yin and yang lines of the hexagram of the sixty four gua depict all images of all possible patterns of change in the universe. Wow! It is simple, mathematical, and vast. As I studied the I Ching or consulted it as an oracle, I drew the images in patterns of straight broken and unbroken lines with pencil, bamboo pen, ink or brush. Through this study I became interested in writing the Chinese language because I wanted to connect more deeply with the I Ching’s wisdom. Part of that wisdom emerged as I drew the lines of the gua.

A great influence has been my practice of Zen through which the profound depths of life activities flow. I practiced at small temples in Chicago and Long Beach, California with Matsuoka Zengaku Roshi. Within the structure of chanting, bowing, meditating and sharing talk, tea and time, I learned that everything is art and every action a ritual. Because Matsuoka Roshi was one of the first Japanese Zen Masters to live in the US, a steady stream of visitors from Japan came to the Temple. Many were practitioners of the Zen inspired arts or masters of the Ways. Encountering their conversations and examples of their art opened me to how integral the Ways extend into Zen meditation.

Many Zen students requested calligraphy from Matsuoka Roshi, some for its artistic quality, and some for its direct instruction on Zen. Often enough, I served as preparer of inks, scrolls, brushes, and paper and as an on the ground observer of Roshi’s shodo. Afterwards, I cleaned ink stone, brushes and the room. I saw and felt how Matsuoka Roshi infused the flowing kanji with the full force of his character and realization. I heard and observed many explanations of bits of poetry and sayings of the masters, maybe no more than a word or two long. During this time I also studied Japanese language, learning how to write some of the characters.  I scribed them like a first grader printing the alphabet while observing the free form flow of mind, energy and word.

Another influence is the energy practices of qi gong. Later I learned Spiral Dragon from Master Quan which is a similar but amazingly more vast and accelerated self development practice on the path of enlightenment. At first, I learned how to sense and bathe in the infinite rain of the spectrum of energies all around us. Now I allow that flow to infuse all my life’s activities including shodo. The traditional ways of practicing this light and qi flow are in meditation, yoga, healing, the martial arts and the fine arts. The applications and expressions of this energy flow are not limited to these Ways. I now appreciate the fusion of energy art and the positive effects that continue to radiate from it to all who connect with it.

A precipitating influence of my practice of shodo is feng shui. As a consultant, I’ve watched how symbols condition and reveal the gap between goals, actions and results in all our lives. We all seem to struggle to find art that is more aptly reflective of our life aims. Perhaps as a reaction to the oft repeated inquiry: “what art can I get for my wealth corner,” I began to offer my shodo as a focused alternative to the often limited and ambivalent choices in the poster and art marketplace. Enjoy the shodo in the on-line gallery. I have found that the energy of each piece communicates itself through almost as well though the electronic medium of the web as it does in person.