On Kawara

I would like this artist to develop the concepts behind my work and inspire me to question existence and reality, as well as create work that leaves the viewer questioning after looking at the artwork. He “maps the bare fact of his existence” through his conceptual artwork, in which he daily list and map his activities and document them in a strict, disciplined way. The artist considers this process to be very meditative and almost spiritual. Little is known about the artist as he was very reserved and prefered solitary life, this element of mystery adds to the intrigue and fascination people have with his artwork. This lack of contact means that his artwork represents documentation of the proof of his existence, the fact that more artwork was being produced by him proved that he wasn’t dead. In fact the today series continued from 4th January 1966 until his death in 2013.


A special thing about the today series is that he didn’t do a canvas everyday, he would try to do one most days and if it wasn’t finished it would be destroyed at the end of the day. Another special feature of this series is he would document the date on the canvas using the language and grammatical conventions of his location at the time of that canvas being produced. This adds a sense of connection and placement for the artist within this reality. On Kawara would also send in these canvases in boxes with newspaper articles from that day to prove that they were made then. Although those newspaper clippings are usually displayed alongside the canvases the artist doesn’t think them to be part of the artwork, despite that I think that when they are displayed in that way, they produce a narrative to the collection. The artist’s collection of data throughout his life and displayed through his artwork is phenomenal, especially considering he also maintained mystery through having such a private life. 

This is all very telling of the time that he was around. If he would have been born in the 2000s I feel that his work would be completely different and would not be able to function in the same way. This would be because it’s almost impossible to have an undocumented, private and offline life to the same degree, anymore. Therefore, the mysteriousness surrounding this artist would disappear and so would the thing that made him so intriguing.

The composition of these pieces are white lettering on a monochromatic or solid, muted colour background. The lettering is very clean and crisp, giving the pieces a matter of fact, analytical feel to them, giving an overall fresh, serene and imposing atmosphere. The pieces are especially imposing when viewed in a gallery space as they are usually displayed on mass, they can be quite overwhelming. This was clearly planned by the artist, as such an understated and mysterious guy, to produce that volume of work which has such a bold graphic look is very impactful and loud.

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