Shunned by the art community for his self-taught style and unconventional approach to sumi-e painting, Koichi Yamashita, 57, creates striking monochrome paintings that convey the “dignity and severity” of Japan’s most imposing peaks, many of which he has climbed.

Today, Yamashita continues to dance along those very peaks and ridges, now through precisely placed brushstrokes. In a process founded on Zen practices and teachings, his work challenges the viewer to venture beyond thoughts and emotions, constructing new values and paradigms through art.

1. What is your relationship with the mountains? My mother is from Gunma Prefecture, and ever since I was a child I ventured into the mountains, climbed trees and swam in rivers. I have always loved nature.