• uben

Hanshoshingyo - calligraphy based on the Heart Sutra

Updated: Apr 10


Calligraphy is a performance: no going back, no possibility of corrections, all in. Endless possibility of variation, yet no matter how hard you try you can’t escape the template of your own hand.


Printmaking is the opposite: everything worked out in advance, repeatable. The printmaker works hard to achieve perfect sameness from the matrix each time; no restlessness.


Hansho 版書 is the name I give to the technique of combining the two. It pulls the idea of printmaking and brushed calligraphy into one concept.


Shingyo 心経 is the Japanese name for the Heart Sutra. Its proper name is Hannya Shingyo, or even more properly Makahannya Haramita Shingyo, the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra. It is a Buddhist text dating from around the 7th Century C.E that is chanted and copied across many Buddhist sects in Japan, Sth Korea, China and Tibet.


The practice of copying the Heart Sutra is considered beneficial in and of itself. It is an action more than an outcome. Like the hidden prayer inside an omamori the finished sutra exerts its power as a remnant of practice, rather than by its accessibility or legibility. In a way, the text is not important. The practice of copying it is.


Having said that, I am also inspired by the meaning of the Heart Sutra. 色即是空空即是色 “Form is in fact Emptiness. Emptiness is in fact Form”. Emptiness is not the Abyss but the Source.


This is powerful medicine for a contemporary culture that sees stillness as terrifying. It also gives a conceptual framework for rethinking Science’s conception of the origins of the universe.


Works list

1. Omamori for a friend (white hannyashingyo), 2018. 9.5 x 73cm, ink on recycled cardboard

2. Excerpt I (Sharishi), 2018. 26 x 36cm, ink on plywood

3. Excerpt II (sora), 2018. 26 x 36cm, ink on plywood

4. Excerpt III (fu, fu, fu, fu, fu), 2018. 26 x 36cm, ink on plywood

5. Excerpt IV (first half), 2019. 51 x 51cm, ink on linen board

6. They saw all the aggregates to be Emptiness I (black), 2018. 13 x 126 cm, ink on recycled cardboard

7. They saw all the aggregates to be Emptiness II (black on white ground), 2018. 13 x 126 cm, ink on recycled cardboard

8. They saw all the aggregates to be Emptiness III (white), 2018. 13 x 126 cm, ink on recycled cardboard

9. Excerpt V (Homage to Keisuke), 2019. 42 x 52cm, ink on Japanese paper (Awagami)

10. Complete Heart Sutra (black stripe), 2018. 65 x 163cm, ink and acrylic on recycled cardboard

11. Heart Sutra front to back with Buddha appearing, 2018. 20 x 20cm, ink on Khadi paper

12. One hundred and twenty-two kanji matrices, 2018. each 5 x 7.5cm, Lino, acrylic sheet






Before the Big Bang, a previous Universe. After Heat-Death, sky.



©2020 by Benjamin Uno