Upon arriving to Johan’s home AKA “The Dutch Barn” we were greeted by a friendly barking dog. As we opened his gate a few more dogs joined in and before we knew it we were surrounded by a welcome brigade of seven adorable rescued canines who trailed us to his front steps where we found three cats, two donkeys and a pair of beehives.
Barn is definitely an accurate description. I quickly began to wonder how Gert Johan Manschot, a self-proclaimed Zen artist, manages to “find peace in this chaos.
Though art has played a major role in his life, Johan was more of a collector, choosing to “fill [his] life with beauty” rather than create it. However, painting in collaboration with his meditative practices had always been an old dream. Once he started creating art, Johan felt that his whole life had been preparing him for this venture.
As a Zen artist, Johan relies heavily on his meditative process to make successful work. After meditating, his paintings are created by one or two simple strokes that represent aura he experiences while being in the here and now.
“I have to let go of the ego to be in the present.”
It’s a fleeting moment that took him years of meditative practice to discover and harness into a creative process. As he showed us his art, he began sorting them into two piles, paintings that work and paintings that do not. Though a mystery to us, he immediately knew what went wrong with the second pile: “my mind got in the way.”
Most of Johan’s work is black and white—pieces which he believes are stronger and more expressive in their simplicity. There is no right way to view his paintings and often they are untitled. “It’s as you like it,” he explains, allowing viewers a chance to form their own thoughts on each piece. Last year, Johan was the guest speaker at a CreativeMornings presentation on Reality, an experience which he believes became a rite of passage for him to further develop the relationship between art and meditation. He continues to experiment with his new work, adding a stroke of color when applicable or meditating to music to channel it visually. His goal is simple: practice Zen, merge with the present and always keep creating.