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Shōgen Blair Thomson is an artist and meditator who seeks to express glimpses of the wondrous nature of reality and the ease of experience in the timeless moment, by exploring interconnecting cultural, embodied and creative practices. His approaches expand from visual art to include Shodo calligraphy, mindful and awareness practices and meditation.

Nurtured by Zen practice and affinity with the elements, particularly space and light, he is interested in dynamic impermanence and feeling experience, envisioned by textures and colours of the worlds within worlds that are alive and co-creating.

As well as Zen and other Buddhist practices, Blair’s creative work has been supported over the years by TM and other meditations and inspired by the environments, language and cultures of Scotland and Japan, having roots in both countries.

He was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1980.  Exhibiting publicly since age 18 and graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 2002, his expression widened from landscape painting to drawing, abstraction, poetry/ word art, installation, video and photography. His studio base is in Glasgow.

Blair has exhibited in as well as curated mixed and solo shows in Scotland, England, U.S.A, Japan, and elsewhere, and he is thankful to have had his artwork collected worldwide in many collections including in Japan, McKinsey & Co. and Scottish Widows.

Meandering paths moved him to lead community art workshops and events, and set up the Drawing and Painting Studio in 2008, which has further developed to encompass meditative and awareness approaches. As well as groups he also works with individuals, such as art training to combining art and mindfulness and working outside, helping to encourage creativity, grounding and connecting to nature, settled and with curiosity.

Regular visits to Japan began in 2002, when he started studying Shodo with calligrapher Shujo Wakabayashi, then in his eighties. Thomson exhibited with him and other Japanese and Chinese visual artists in 09 and the next year represented the UK at the ART/X/TOYAMA International Exhibition. In recent years, since Wakabayashi, who was like a grandfather to him, passed away, he has spent some time to reflect and discover new shodo masters as well as live for short periods with Soto zen monks, practice Zazen, learn from them and from practitioners from other groups, participate in chanting and Shakyo sutra copying.

He was a board member on the committee of the R.G.I. arts organisation from 2007 to 2012 and since then has been involved assisting with organisation and Buddhist work, such as sometimes Tenzo, at Glasgow Zen Group (GZG). He regularly collaborates on creative and nature related or zen projects, such as with the inspiring Margaret Kerr and John Fraser. John leads the GZG and gave Blair (along with his dharma siblings) the zen precepts and also his Buddhist name Shogen 生現 in 2017 at Ardfern on the west coast of Scotland. Blair has an interest in Haiku and Waka poetry and has translated some poems by master Dogen Zenji and also Ryokan.

Please check his ‘Sketchbook Notes’ blog for interests, inspiration and recent projects.

Selected Activities:

2016 – 2019

2019 Advanced Mindfulness course, Glasgow Vihara, teacher Nelum Jayakody
2019Community art exhibition Maryhill Hub with NUC
2019Healthy Heads mental health workshop, Glasgow Youth Theatre
2019Sotozen Zazen kai experience with Issho Fujita and at Tokyo Dogen Sangha, Seishouji, Zenshoin, Kouunji, Toushouji, Daijouji temples
2019visits and practice to Shingon, Rinzai zen, Hossoushu (Yogacara school) temples Japan
2017 – 2019 Workshops/ day retreats at Lenzie working with Margaret Kerr, combining art or calligraphy with mindful meditation
2017 – presentShodo calligraphy and Shakyo sutra tracing workshops in Glasgow and southern Scotland
2018MBSR Mindfulness Course, Glasgow Vihara, teacher Nelum Jayakody
2017/18practice at Daijouji, Seishouiji (Soto) and Hossoushu temples
2017 to present student of Shodo calligraphy masters teaching in Tokyo
2016Art directing and publication of ‘Future’ for Aye Write Book Festival, collaboration between literacy and art for adult learners, Glasgow

2010 –

2013Exhibiting ‘Urban Dynamics’ series of drawings at Factory Hanbunko Gallery, Takaoka, Japan
2013‘6×4” Exhibition’, Cooper Gallery Space, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, mixed show
2012- present Glasgow Zen Group organisation, such as sharing Tenzo and secretary roles
2012Tokyo Exhibition ‘Toki No Ashiato’ (‘Traces of Time’) at Gallery 80, Omotesando, with Wakabayashi Shujo (curated by Blair and fashion designer Chizuko Wakabayashi)
2011 – 12Community Workshops for the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts
2011Curating ‘The Way to Northern Cherry Blossoms’ Japan Earthquake Charity Exhibition, RGI Kelly Gallery and Blair Thomson’s Studio, Glasgow
2011Showing with Cove Park Print Portfolio, Boisdale Gallery, London, curated by Fleming Collection.
2010ART/X/TOYAMA International Exhibition, representing U.K. and participating in the International Art Symposium and Artist Talks, co-leading art workshop
2010Curating for Royal Glasgow Institute: ‘Artist’s Statement’ section at Glasgow Art Fair. Artists selected from throughout Scotland including sculpture by George Wyllie
2010RGI’s ‘Artist’s Statement’ section at Glasgow Art Fair, also represented by John Green Fine Art; Hospitalfield Artist Resident Exhibition at Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh; Collaboration with Designworks, SECC, Glasgow

2004 –

2009‘Trailing the North Wind’, Glasgow Art Club solo exhibition.
2009Wakabayashi Shujo 90th Sho Exhibition, Toyama, Japan, showing 8 works & collaborating with him and designer Chizuko Wakabayashi; RSA Spring Open, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; RGI Annual Exhibition; Billcliffe Gallery Glasgow
2008 – present Founded the Drawing and Painting Studio
2008Sophie Montgomery Art, Kensington, London, featured artist; Curating for Glasgow Art Club ‘New Faces to Glasgow Art Club’; Ricefield Gallery, Glasgow
2007 – present  Participating in Glasgow Zen Group retreats at Ardfern, Arran, Kagyu Samye Dzong Glasgow
2007RGI Langside College Watercolour Award; Glasgow Art Club Fellowship Award
2007Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition, ‘Highland’; New York Art Fair representing Flying Colours Gallery; RGI Annual Exhibition, prizes for ‘Rhythms Kilcreggan’; Kilmorack Gallery, Invernessshire; House for an Art Lover, Glasgow
2006Abstract Exhibition’, Scotland Art, Edinburgh; Two person show at Gallery Heinzel, Aberdeen; Third Step Gallery solo show ‘In Time with the Wind’, Trongate, Glasgow
2005London Art Fair, Baillie Gallery, London
2004Awarded RSW Residency at Hospitalfield House Arbroath
2004Scottish Art Today, Lloyds, Edinburgh; ‘Internationalism’ Royal Concert Hall Exhibition, Glasgow

1992 –

2003GSA students/ graduates show, Studio 24, West Kilbride; Full Circle Gallery, Glasgow
2003Solo show Stenton Gallery, East Lothian
2002 – 2012 apprentice of Master Wakabayashi (Sho calligraphy, markmaking), Osawano
2002- 03 Workshops for Largs Academy
2002Awarded Esmee Fairbairn Residency at Cove Park
2002Glasgow School of Art ‘Degree Show’ Exhibition, Mackintosh Gallery, Mackintosh Building; ‘Terra Nova’ Degree Show Selection, Mackintosh Gallery, GSA; Compass Gallery ‘Next Generation’ Glasgow
2002Solo exhibition at the Kelly Gallery, Glasgow; Solo Exhibition at Studio 24, West Kilbride
2001Royal Glasgow Institute Scholarship; RGI Exhibitionship
2001Solo Exhibition at Gallery Cossachok, Glasgow
20013rd Year Prize, Glasgow School of Art experiments in etching, painting
2000 – 2016 Art tutoring at Abernethy/ Glencoe with Hamilton College groups
2000Laing Landscape Painting Competition, Mall Galleries, London
1998 – 2002 Glasgow School of Art Painting Department, BA(hons) Fine Art

Hamilton College Art Department, studying art and design under Alan Wilson