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On Kawara

Eternal Return

26 July — 17 September 2006

This exhibition consisted entirely of ‘Date Paintings’ by the US/Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara. They are part of his Today Series, an ongoing project begun in 1966, a series of paintings, each made in a day, bearing the inscribed date on which they were made. Each painting in this selection was made on a Sunday, one selected per year since the inception of the Today Series, thus conveying the idea ironically of Kawara as a “Sunday Painter”, someone who paints as a hobby.

The craftsmanship involved in the production of a Date Painting is extraordinary. Four coats of paint are carefully applied and allowed to dry, followed by a rubbing down in preparation for subsequent coats. The outlines of the text are meticulously drawn and then filled in with several coats of white paint with the use of tapered brushes, a ruler, set square, blade and brush for dusting. A considerable amount of time is spent eliminating imperfections, making minute adjustments to the outlines and fine-tuning the final composition. If the piece is not finished by the end of the day, by midnight, it is destroyed.

The selection of Date Paintings shown in this exhibition were first made for Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the Hills, the solo exhibition of a wider range of work by On Kawara presented at Ikon in 2002. It then toured around the world in a clock-wise direction – through France, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada and Peru – reinforcing the idea of the artist’s preoccupation with the passage of time, until Spring 2006. Each subsequent year on the tour was marked by the addition of another Sunday Date Painting. The original selection of 38 paintings was installed here in exactly the way it was four years ago, with the exception of the extra four, those dating from 2003 – 2006.