Capturing Ensō by Jeroen De Wandel


Photographer Jeroen De Wandel shares his practice process and influences. His work is an interpretation of the Buddhist artistic principle of ensō where the spirit is free to create irrespective of its human body confine. De Wandel really achieves this in a beautiful meandering account of ephemeral day-to-day observations captured in photography. His work, although depicting very abstract elements, is totally finite in what it's trying to translate to an audience. He performs ensō with his camera as the brush and paint and his images the full circle stroke.   

Tell us more about you and your artwork.

I was born in 1980 and live in Ghent, Belgium. Central themes in my work are time, family, alienation, astonishment, looked upon from different angles, which results in sometimes abstracted, very tactile images, always with a touch of reality in it, that can change of identity or story in function of the place they get in a series/expo, where composition and interaction between the images is central. I try to communicate with the spectator through the combination of images; the poetry without words that entices phantasy and makes you travel in your own mind to experiences you had in your past. In that way, through the images, I communicate from one’s mind to another, through my own visual world, without underestimating the spectator's imagination in this world of often superficial, concrete images. The spectator gets sucked into the images and is thrown back into the exhibition space and his own mind. I start out of personal experiences and interests, photographing (living) things / places in the world around me where I feel connection with, in an as unconscious possible way. Basically- it’s about life itself. I use appropriated and original images, always playing with reality and unreality.

How did you plan for this project? What was your creative process?

A lot of people work in series, want to order things in boxes, i.e. a portrait series, a landscape series. I don’t, I sometimes give it another title, but this is my main work, it’s a never ending project for me. It’s something I always did, I just take my small camera everywhere with me and when something hits me-I would almost say ‘gets in touch with me’- I take a picture. It’s a way of remembering things or of creating new memories. After a while I have a bunch of pictures, than I make little proofing and start combining them in different ways. It’s a slow process of selecting and sometimes reframing or manipulating the pictures.


What work inspires or has inspired?

Wolfgang Tillmans, because of his way of putting everything together (his book ‘Neue Welt’), not splitting up things, but presenting it as a view on this planet, how he experiences his place in this universe. Vincent Delbrouck, very in touch with his spiritual side, who’s doing kind of the same as Tillmans, in a complete different way, even writing poems on his pictures, making collages with it… Christian Boltanski, who reconstructs the past with (photographic) installations, often with a sense of astonishment, in a very pure, frank way.

Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why? 

The conceptual movement because it thinks ideas are more important than the visual components. Artists question the conventional ways of thinking about art and they use different ways of expressing themselves, i.e. performance, video, etc. Land art, because the radical new way of thinking about art and the reaction if formed against traditional sculptures by doing interventions in nature. Art and nature become one.

Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?

I think people should start to live more in harmony with nature and the world around us. We all have lost connection somewhere, now that everything is wireless connected through internet, smartphones etc. We should be aware that those things are invented to help us, not to make us modern i-slaves. The paradox of social media is a good example, they make us less social, more individual and dependent of the approval of other, similar users. You don’t get to see other opinions, new impressions, mind blowing insights or ideas. Disconnect, meet new people and discover the world. It enriches you.


Your work uses visual semiotics and the tactility of images to reflect a very subjective view of your life. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for this work and it’s relation to ensō?

The ensō symbolises absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). An ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. The circle may be open or closed. In the case the circle is incomplete, it’s allowing for movement and development as well as the perfection of all things. Ensō is related to wabi-sabi, the beauty of imperfection, a concept in Zen Buddhism. It’s a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. I’m not a Buddhist, but I like this way of thinking. When perfection would exist, the cosmos wouldn’t be necessary anymore. For me, imperfection is actually perfection, because out of imperfection things develop and grow in different shapes and adapt to ever changing circumstances. It keeps the world (and life) going on. A visual result of that ever developing way of being is often tactility, it shows that something has lived.

Any words for aspiring photographic artists? 

Never give up. Try to get to know yourself, try different things, discover what really matters for you.

Is there anything you’re currently working on?

I recently started manipulating photographs with products like red wine, coffee, etc. I’m working on collages, I try to develop installations where I combine photographs with objects and I’m working on some photo zines. And I’m looking for a publisher who likes to experiment too.

View his website here.