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On Kawara: Consciousness. Meditation. ...

On Kawara: Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the hills.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery presents one of the world’s most respected and influential contemporary artists, On Kawara in the major survey exhibition On Kawara Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the hills. Opening on 12 March the exhibition is curated by Jonathan Watkins, Director of the Ikon Gallery Birmingham. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is the only Australasian venue for the exhibition, which is a collaboration between the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham and Le Consortium, Dijon.

“On Kawara is a pivotal figure in the development of 20th century art and the exhibition draws on works from prominent private and public collections worldwide. It is one of the most significant surveys of a single artist the Gallery has yet presented”, says Govett-Brewster Director Greg Burke.

Burke continues: “To put the importance of On Kawara’s work into context the world’s leading modern art museums include Kawara along side legends such as Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys. For example the esteemed Dia Beacon modern art museum in New York opened last year with a substantial permanent display of Kawara’s work, one of only a handful of 20th century artists to receive such distinction”.

Time has been central to Kawara’s work since the 1960s and is marked by the first date painting on January 4, 1966 when he began what he refers to as the Today series, which now includes more than 2,000 paintings. The exhibition features a large selection of works from this seminal series, all Sundays, ranging in time from 1966 to 2005, which simply declares the date on which they are made.

Curator, Jonathan Watkins says: “Each of the paintings was completed on the date shown; if Kawara fails to finish the painting by midnight he destroys it. Kawara considers the series to be a single ongoing work that will be completed at the end of his lifetime.”

The exhibition also includes over 100 telegrams bearing the message ‘I am still alive’ which were sent by the artist to friends and colleagues. The almost total replacement of telegrams by fax and email has meant that Kawara sends far fewer telegrams than he used to making his statement of existence more rare and precious as he ages. On occasion Kawara has also sent variations of the “I am still alive” message, others to appear are: “I am not going to commit suicide don’t worry”, “I am not going to commit suicide worry” and “I am going to sleep forget it”.

Watkins comments: “On Kawara has been included in all major surveys of conceptual art since the early 1970s and although his work seems to be simple and direct in appearance, Kawara’s work communicates a profound message. It addresses the passage of time and the nature of consciousness and ultimately human mortality”

Also featured in the exhibition is One million years – Past and One million years – Future, two complementary works marking the passage of time in a way similar to the Today series. The books list the years as described in the title. One million years – past was the first work in the series. One million years – future was made ten years later, creating a ten year gap between the lists of years stretching far into the past and future.

“In presenting On Kawara. Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the hills. the Govett-Brewster is extending an exploration of Japanese artists that follows the recent acclaimed exhibition Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan. The period of time covered by the exhibition also neatly dovetails with the history of the Gallery, which opened with a Pacific Rim focus and with the exhibition Real Time”, says Burke.

Opening in conjunction with On Kawara. Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the hills. the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is pleased to present Antirrealismos: Spanish photomedia now 12 March – 1 May 2005. Both exhibitions are opening the same weekend that the WOMAD festival is on in New Plymouth.

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