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.
2016 – 2019
|2019||Advanced Mindfulness course, Glasgow Vihara, teacher Nelum Jayakody|
|2019||Community art exhibition Maryhill Hub with NUC|
|2019||Healthy Heads mental health workshop, Glasgow Youth Theatre|
|2019||Sotozen Zazen kai experience with Issho Fujita and at Tokyo Dogen Sangha, Seishouji, Zenshoin, Kouunji, Toushouji, Daijouji temples|
|2019||visits 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 – present||Shodo calligraphy and Shakyo sutra tracing workshops in Glasgow and southern Scotland|
|2018||MBSR Mindfulness Course, Glasgow Vihara, teacher Nelum Jayakody|
|2017/18||practice at Daijouji, Seishouiji (Soto) and Hossoushu temples|
|2017 to present||student of Shodo calligraphy masters teaching in Tokyo|
|2016||Art directing and publication of ‘Future’ for Aye Write Book Festival, collaboration between literacy and art for adult learners, Glasgow|
|2013||Exhibiting ‘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|
|2012||Tokyo Exhibition ‘Toki No Ashiato’ (‘Traces of Time’) at Gallery 80, Omotesando, with Wakabayashi Shujo (curated by Blair and fashion designer Chizuko Wakabayashi)|
|2011 – 12||Community Workshops for the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts|
|2011||Curating ‘The Way to Northern Cherry Blossoms’ Japan Earthquake Charity Exhibition, RGI Kelly Gallery and Blair Thomson’s Studio, Glasgow|
|2011||Showing with Cove Park Print Portfolio, Boisdale Gallery, London, curated by Fleming Collection.|
|2010||ART/X/TOYAMA International Exhibition, representing U.K. and participating in the International Art Symposium and Artist Talks, co-leading art workshop|
|2010||Curating for Royal Glasgow Institute: ‘Artist’s Statement’ section at Glasgow Art Fair. Artists selected from throughout Scotland including sculpture by George Wyllie|
|2010||RGI’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|
|2009||‘Trailing the North Wind’, Glasgow Art Club solo exhibition.|
|2009||Wakabayashi 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|
|2008||Sophie 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|
|2007||RGI Langside College Watercolour Award; Glasgow Art Club Fellowship Award|
|2007||Royal 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|
|2006||Abstract Exhibition’, Scotland Art, Edinburgh; Two person show at Gallery Heinzel, Aberdeen; Third Step Gallery solo show ‘In Time with the Wind’, Trongate, Glasgow|
|2005||London Art Fair, Baillie Gallery, London|
|2004||Awarded RSW Residency at Hospitalfield House Arbroath|
|2004||Scottish Art Today, Lloyds, Edinburgh; ‘Internationalism’ Royal Concert Hall Exhibition, Glasgow|
|2003||GSA students/ graduates show, Studio 24, West Kilbride; Full Circle Gallery, Glasgow|
|2003||Solo show Stenton Gallery, East Lothian|
|2002 – 2012||apprentice of Master Wakabayashi (Sho calligraphy, markmaking), Osawano|
|2002- 03||Workshops for Largs Academy|
|2002||Awarded Esmee Fairbairn Residency at Cove Park|
|2002||Glasgow School of Art ‘Degree Show’ Exhibition, Mackintosh Gallery, Mackintosh Building; ‘Terra Nova’ Degree Show Selection, Mackintosh Gallery, GSA; Compass Gallery ‘Next Generation’ Glasgow|
|2002||Solo exhibition at the Kelly Gallery, Glasgow; Solo Exhibition at Studio 24, West Kilbride|
|2001||Royal Glasgow Institute Scholarship; RGI Exhibitionship|
|2001||Solo Exhibition at Gallery Cossachok, Glasgow|
|2001||3rd Year Prize, Glasgow School of Art experiments in etching, painting|
|2000 – 2016||Art tutoring at Abernethy/ Glencoe with Hamilton College groups|
|2000||Laing 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|