What the hell is this?
Usually the inscription ‘What is this?’ is written in classical Chinese but here Soen has used the colloquial Japanese expression Kore nan da? This has the sense of ‘What the hell is this?’ in English. Such a humorous inscription has the effect of bringing the enso painting down to earth, so to speak, making it less intimidating. Evidently, Soen had trouble brushing the enso on the fan, making it so misshapen and difficult to recognize that ‘What is this?’ is an actual question.
Zany and unpredictable Nakagawa Soen was one of the pioneers of Zen in the United States. Soen, abbot of Ryutaku-ji where a number of prominent Western Zen elders trained, visited the U.S. and Europe many times. Soen was also an accomplished haiku poet. He was a prolific and creative Zen artist, leaving behind thousands of Zenga, including one enso created with a brush dipped in a cup of coffee.
Age: 20th Century
Size: image 7-3/4" x 18-1/4" (20 x 46 cm); overall 49" x 25" (124 x 63 cm)
Media: Ink on paper
Price: $2,500.00 USD