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Morikami exhibit ties science to Buddhism through art

A lake at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Photo by Dmitro

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is hosting “Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion Through Art and Science,” an exhibition inspired by Paula Arai’s book of the same name honoring the works of Japanese artist Iwasaki Tsuneo. Iwasaki worked as a research biologist before retiring to pursue art, and many of his paintings tie science to Buddhism. Iwasaki connects his paintings stylistically by using characters from the Heart Sutra, a religious scripture sacred in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Born in 1917, Iwasaki grew up as the only brother to six sisters. He fought in World War II and was captured with other Japanese troops at the end of the war in 1945 and sent to an internment camp, where they were forced to rely on farming and foraging.

Upon his release and return to Japan, Iwasaki pursued biology as a researcher and teacher. Through his love for biology and his understanding of the Heart Sutra, he later created captivating art.

Iwasaki began turning the Heart Sutra text into visual art at the age of 63. He crafted the characters into familiar depictions of the real world to tell stories of vastness found in the Heart Sutra and the empathy that is at times lost in war. Iwasaki’s art evokes a sense of care toward what is empty and great.

“Painting Enlightenment” will be at the the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens until March 27.


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