artwork & words by Duncan C. Mason (Ash)

art & artistry & philosophy & inspiration & whimsy & wonder & nature

This series is transforming from the Netsuke series (based on an item of traditional Japanese dress - a carved ivory or wood toggle) to the Wu Wei series (digital work as opposed to scanned traditional work).

"Wu Wei" can be translated in many ways: the wayless way, non-action, not doing, without action, control, effort.

'WuWeiWu" can be thought of as 'actionless action' or 'effortless doing'. I think it can also be translated as 'flow'; ie. those moments when we are so involved in what we are doing that 'we' are not there - there is just the doingness of the doing.

Flown is the first in the series, an early morning incident involving Basho & Hyajuko, two zen monks. Basho was a real person - a famous Japanese poet. He went on a "cloud pilgrimage" and travelled all over Japan - which was an extremely dangerous thing to do in medieval times. 

The second in the series is entitled Moon. The moon is a continuing motif in zen stories. This one takes place in winter high in the mountains.

The third is entitle Sakura which, most of you will know, is the Japanese word for "cherry blossom". The cherry blossom holds a special place in the heart of the Japanese people and in the heart of zen. It represents the fleeting evanescence of life. And for the Samurai was a potent symbol of a life that could be lost at any time.

Click on the first image to view in a scrolling gallery (left & right arrows).

There are now 9 short stories in the Netsuke series - and the 9th - Mountain Light - has only been done digitally (see below). The artwork has changed so much that I am going to do all of them again digitally (like the Eternal Laughter series). 

The image below shows how much the work has changed between 2011 & 2014. "Wu wei" can be translated in many ways but basically means "non-doing"; it can be better translated (especially in terms of Taoism or Zen) as "the action of non-doing". It is the effortless action associated with 'going with the flow' and is fundamental to meditation, flower arranging, poetry, painting & the martial arts.

Two Temples - a seeming rivalry between an enlightened teacher and a not so enlightened teacher.

Tea Shop - three young monks learn a lesson in humility from a subtle zen master.

Winter Fire

The Way

Samurai Snow

Mountain Light


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