Nathan Cann is an undergraduate of Mount Allison’s BFA program. Finishing in 2012, Nathan was the provincial winner of the BMO Art First competition, a yearly award program that celebrates emerging artists. This helped him start his career as a full-time contemporary artist with an acute interest in the idea of art and the artist.
In Zen Buddhism, the enso is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. These simple circles narrate an entire body of Zen and Japanese values dating back to the pre edo period, but to the artist, the simple fluid and excessive brush stroke is absolute minimalist creation. Usually a person draws the ens–o in one fluid, expressive swift stroke. Once the ens–o is drawn, one does not change it. It captures the character of its creator and the context of its creation in a brief moment of time.
For my own sake, the creation of ens–o is a daily practice. The ens–o is used as a loose narrative of an artistic venture. Each ens–o has its own story as it captures a moment. This abstract narrative becomes a tablet for the artist to explore how the aesthetics of the ens–o can be applied to a system of contemporary expression. Combining this ancient form of expressionism with a conceptual regime to see what I can create with this practice. How abstract can of a narrative can the ens–o express?
“The Study of the Ens–o” is a collection of works varying in mediums, which explore this system of contemporary narrative that I practice on a daily basis. Some of these pieces reflect the experience in which the artist had created the ens–o, while others reference moments outside the creation of the ens–o but still have a relation to the idea of a daily practice. These ens–o works may be nothing more than the ens–o itself and have no referential significance other than the aesthetic quality of the painting.
In some ways, these are all created with the intent of being nothing but they can never be pure abstractions due to my daily intentions of art making. These are all windows into the practice of an artist, moments within an artist’s life, the times and experiences spent within studio time or daily existence, my own path to find meaning in Zen traditions through contemporary methods.