The work of Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara deftly packs so many huge themes and ideas into his work it’s not easy to know where to begin. There’s a deceptive simplicity to the work, like his date paintings (pictured). Kawara has painted over 2000 of these “dates” and if he doesn’t finish the work before the midnight, the painting is destroyed. As if Kawara wants to remind us that that particular day will never come again.
In many ways, Kawara has captured the concept of temporality at its most basic. Photographs, try to capture a moment, but with photographs there’s a subject, a context, a location. It’s difficult, almost impossible to capture time in a photograph, but Kawara’s date paintings do this, albeit in an imperfect manner.
A complement to the date paintings is the mind-numbing work, “One Million Years (Past)” and “One Million Years (Future).” Kawara has printed large books with sequential dates printed in them. These books when read out loud, (something that Torontoist sadly hasn’t witnessed), supposedly takes about 30 years so it’s unlikely that anyone will see it in its entireity. Nonetheless, the audacity of this work, its scale and the elegance of Kawara’s work is startling.
On Kawara’s work can be seen at the Power Plant. This is the only Canadian stop of this show and runs until Mar. 5