“Hey, listen”, 1923
Ink on paper, 117.5 x 30.5 cm
Mounts 208 x 48 cm
Nantembō’s handprint is a rare form of self-portrait and together a strong expression of zen art. In fact, the purpose of this kind of calligraphy is to awaken the viewer and this direct command together with the physical image of the hand is certainly able to reach our deep conscience.
Hand prints had been used together with calligraphy in the Edo period and Tibetan abbots sometimes pressed their hands on the back of tanka scrolls in order to certify their blessings. Nevertheless, this work is the most immediate and resolute of all. This painting can also remind of some child’s work and Nantenbō himself has written sentences such as “If you become like a child, you can understand”, or “There is nobody as strong as a child”. We can say, in fact, that his whole art production tends to the simplicity and to the strong and direct impact of children’s drawings.
The signature mentions his age of 85 years, as all other versions of this calligraphy.