Zen-Inspired Generative Art

by Matto – Shinkai (AKA MonkMatto)

Core Projects:


Algorithmic edition of 1000

Released on Artblocks.io

Mar 22, 2021

In Zen, ensō is a symbol that represents elegance and enlightenment. It is typically painted by hand in an uninhibited way, allowing for unexpected and beautiful results. Inspired by sumi-e (ink wash painting), this project mimics the practice of painting an ensō in ink by utilizing p5.js. Each generated image uses values from a unique transaction hash to determine paper, brush, ink, the quantity of ink held by each bristle, how quickly the ink flows, and more—all with the goal of creating a simple yet serendipitous painting.

Learn about the history of the symbol called ensō and how Zenerative started, see examples of Ensō tokens and more at https://matto.xyz/project/enso/.

Ensō #0 (live render)


Algorithmic edition of 567

Released on Artblocks.io

Oct 26, 2021

FOCUS is an exploration of, and meditation on, the act of directed attention, the fixture of concentration, the state permitting clarity, and the mathematical point of convergence.

This algorithm can produce images that are elegantly minimal, as well as images featuring complex patterns that explore visual illusions and artificial space. Inspired by the Zen art tradition of doing more with less, the limited palette consists of black, white, and five colors. This both constrains possible outcomes and allows the creation of unique perceptual interactions. Each token can provide a wide variety of visual experiences through its interactive features.

Learn about the the theory behind this project, the algorithm, see examples of FOCUS tokens and more at https://matto.xyz/project/focus/.

FOCUS #0 (live render)


Algorithmic edition of 64

Released on Plottables.io (Art Blocks Engine)

Jun 2, 2023

Scratch is a Zen-inspired generative art project that explores the captivating patterns that sanding discs create on metal surfaces. The digital artworks can be pen-plotted at any scale, and an alternate physical output can be created on sheets of metal using CNC machines.

Learn about the the inspiration behind this project, explore the algorithm, see examples of Scratch tokens and more at https://matto.xyz/project/scratch/.

Scratch #0 (live render)

Time Between the Lines is Thread Through the Mind

Algorithmic edition of 128

Released on Plottables.io (Art Blocks Engine)

March 6, 2024

Time Between the Lines is Thread Through the Mind (AKA “Thread”) is a meditative plotter-performance artwork, where each experience is uniquely recorded using specific pens on dark or light paper.

Learn about the the inspiration behind this project, explore the algorithm, see examples of “Thread” tokens and more at https://matto.xyz/project/time-between-the-lines/.

“Thread” #0 (live render – “skeuomorphic” disabled)

Additional Projects:

Ensō Water Paintings

Edition of 100

Released on Mintbase (Eth)

July 22, 2021

100 Ensō Water Paintings were created to reward lucky buyers of my Art Blocks project Ensō.

Dice was rolled and recorded, paintings were made with water, video recorded each painting’s creation and evaporation.

Learn about this project at https://matto.xyz/project/enso-water-paintings/.

Ensō Water Painting #3


Edition of 567

EVM Smart Contracts (Eth)

July 25, 2022

deFOCUSed is a 100% on-chain project closely associated with Matto’s Art Blocks ‘FOCUS’ project. 

The deFOCUSed algorithm produces tokens that correspond to FOCUS tokens. By using the same random hash as the FOCUS script as well as a new random hash that is generated when a deFOCUSed token is created, some traits match the corresponding FOCUS token, while others are specific to the moment a FOCUS owner deFOCUSes their FOCUS.

The project is 100% on-chain, relying only on smart contracts to generate the token data, and the assets are rendered live in your browser into an animated SVG image.

Learn about this project at https://matto.xyz/project/defocused/

deFOCUSed #0


Edition of 64

Released on Base (Eth L2)

Feb. 23, 2024

Plotting the same digital shape – a square spiral – analog differences in material become the inputs to a generative art system that reimagines uniformity.

The first set of Squirals (0-63) were made while plotting all Scratch tokens for their owners. Squirals were airdropped to Scratch owners, with tokenIds matching (owner of Scratch #20 received Squiral #20).

Learn about this project at https://matto.xyz/project/squirals/.

Squiral #0

About Me (Matto – Shinkai)

Art, code, martial arts, and Eastern spirituality

I’ve been an artist and a programmer since I could draw and use my high-school’s computers. I found a deep connection to Asian culture and aesthetics in grade school, and in college, I devoted my energy to perfecting myself through martial arts and spirituality. You can read more about my background in this short essay.

Martial arts: I’ve mostly studied Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Wu Su, but I’ve also practiced other Kung Fu styles, Shorin Ryu (Karate), Tae Kwon Do, and Tai Chi.

Spirituality: I practice a version of Buddhism that is very close to the Japanese Zen Buddhism, but with elements from the Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and Indian Vajrayāna. The philosophical side of Taoism resonates with me, and I use both moving and seated meditation in my practice.

Poetry: Starting in 2010, I’ve written over 1250 spiritual and haiku-like poems on FreestyleHaiku.com. For me, writing poetry is more than self-expression; it’s a meditation in presence, awareness, and communication.

I’d love to interact with you online! Find me on twitter as @MonkMatto, or better yet, join my discord!

Here I’m practicing Tai Chi outside Union Station in Washington DC. Photo by Augen.

Environmental Responsibility

As an individual, I purchase 1MW of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) every month from terrapass.com to more than offset my regular crypto activities. For every Zenerative project, I also buy RECs to more than offset that project’s environmental impact (this is in addition to the offsets that Artblocks.io secures for the platform).

Zenerative projects are carbon negative. You can be assured that the purchase of RECs does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and in fact, is contributing to reducing climate change.

12 MWH of RECs were purchased for Ensō.

12 MWH of RECs were purchased for FOCUS.

10 MWH of RECs were purchased for Scratch.

12 MWH of RECs were purchased for “Thread”.