top of page










 Iwasaki Tsuneo, Japanese, 1917–2002; Big Bang: E = mc2, six scroll paintings; 17 x 8.5 feet




PAINTING ENLIGHTENMENT: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra

This unique exhibition features the work of Japanese artist and scientist Iwasaki Tsuneo whose massive scrolls beautifully merge his understandings of science and Buddhism. The exhibition takes visitors on an interactive and contemplative journey offering opportunities for interdisciplinary and multi-generational engagement.


Iwasaki Tsuneo 岩埼常夫 (1917–2002) used calligraphy and painting to meditate on the interconnectedness of the universe. He collapses distinctions between image, text, and thought with imagery representative of both scientific phenomena and Buddhist principles.


Iwasaki’s work expands the practice of copying sacred texts, a form of devotion with a long history in Japan. In his creative sutra copying, Iwasaki uses traditional Chinese characters to copy the Heart Sutra text. Instead of separating the text into vertical blocks, he shapes it into images of DNA, lightning bolts, galaxies, atoms, and ants.


Number of Works: 25; Ranging from 12” x 12” framed works to 17’ x 8.5’ scrolls

Exhibition catalogue: Paula Arai, Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra––The Buddhist Art of Iwasaki Tsuneo. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2019.



















“Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion Through Art and Science.” Morikami Museum, Delray Beach, FL, May 8-March 27, 2022.


“Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion Through Art and Science.” Peeler Art Center, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN, Sept. 13, 2019-Dec. 6, 2019.


“Painting Enlightenment,” Nalanda of the West, Seattle, WA, March 1-3, 2019.


“Painting Enlightenment,” Zentner Gallery, Emeryville, CA, Nov. 27, 2018-Jan. 4, 2019.


“Wisdom of Compassion: The Art & Science of Iwasaki Tsuneo,” Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, TX, Mar. 11-Jun. 11, 2017.


Co-curator Dr. Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan, “Selections of Iwasaki Tsuneo’s Works,” Austin College Idea Center, March 9-24, 2017.


“Seeing the Wisdom of Compassion: The Art & Science of the Heart Sutra.” Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, CA, Jan. & June 2016.


“Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion Through Art and Science.” Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, LA, Sept.-Nov. 2016.


"My purpose for doing tiny character sutra copying paintings is for you to see the teachings of the Buddha, to see the Buddha, and I am deeply grateful to dwell in the heart of the sutra. Also, contemporary people who have lost themselves in busy-ness and whose hearts are dissolute, I pray they feel the same succor and compassion when they look at these paintings."

-Iwasaki Tsuneo

DNA small.png
bottom of page