The Japanese rock garden (“karesansui” or, as it’s often called, “zen garden”) is a small landscape consisting of carefully arranged rocks, trees and bushes on a bed of sand or gravel raked to represent water. It is meant to mimic the intimate essence of nature, not its true appearance. It serves as a meditation aid and instills a quiet state of mind.

Karesansui was the inspiration for this project. I have been a meditation practitioner for many years and sought to invite others, through these photographs, to enter the still mind-space that meditation brings. I have abstracted the idea of the zen garden using simple shapes, arranged harmoniously with each other and with their surroundings.

In the earliest text on Japanese gardening, “creating a garden” is referred to as “setting stones.” I have created my own spare landscape by “setting” these simple geometric objects, positioning them relative to light, horizon lines and viewer perspective.

Each print is created as a hand-made image transfer to BFK Rives paper. The image transfer process adds an organic dimension to the work which steers the architectural quality of the images toward nature, an important foundation of karesansui. The movement of the emulsion that takes place during the transfer creates a sense of movement, similar to the raking of gravel. Each piece becomes unique, just as each zen garden is a unique expression of familiar rocks, trees and shrubs.

My hope is that each of these pieces will induce a quality of mindfulness when contemplated and that the series will offer the viewer a journey to a quiet place.

—Bob Cornelis