Although I own many catalogues about On Kawara, there is one that I haven't seen as yet. It came out in 1996 from
Les Presses du Réel in Dijon, the organisation responsible for the Giacometti/Kawara show in 1990. Apparently, On Kawara 'proposed' the volume, and suggested what it might consist of. When I learned that it runs to over 700 pages, I realised I needed to see it. Though the fact that the book (2000 copies were printed) is rare and expensive on the second-hand market has so far prevented me from acquiring a copy.

However, last week I discovered that St. Andrew's University Library has
a copy, and that by becoming a temporary member of the library I could borrow it for four weeks at a time. So here I am, in this space devoid of students because of Covid. I've found the book, which must weigh five kilograms, and I've placed it on a piece of library furniture so as to take this photo.


The covers of the book - and several double-pages at the front and the rear of the volume - are covered in numbers. Such numbers as 'seventy-eight trillion five hundred ninety-two billion fifty million one hundred forty-one thousand seven hundred and two'. (That's 78,592,050,141,702.) Some numbers are much smaller and simpler, like 'five'. And other numbers are seemingly large but in fact small, like 'five thousand and fourteen ten thousandths'. (That's 0.5014.)

The number sequence brings to mind the artist's
Million Years Past and Million Years Future works. But it's bit different here, more to do with scale. A large number, (say a million years), in the past, and a large number (say a million years) in the future, would be the equivalent of positive and negative numbers, with zero as the number in common. That's not what we have here. In this case, the numbers go from 'one' to however many trillion one can think of, and write down, but then one can make the level of detail (between 0 and 1) incredibly high by specifying how many trillionths are involved. So I wouldn't be surprised if the word equivalent of 208,345,678,235,087,167.185679037 is listed in the end papers of this book which has already made a substantial impact on me.


The photo above is of the book upside down, showing the back cover. The little square, top left, is in fact a sentence which reads: 'It's always while looking at the part that the whole is seen to be moving.' The sentence is attributed to Ben Kinmont, and in the Phaidon volume on On Kawara, published in 2002, Ben Kinmont tells us that he received a call from On Kawara who had noticed this sentence in the gutter of an otherwise blank leaf in a catalogue that Kinmont had been working on. Kawara explained that he was preparing 'his first retrospective' and that the title would be 'Whole and Parts'. He wondered if he could quote the sentence on the cover of his catalogue and on posters advertising the exhibition.

So it seems On Kawara really did take a detailed interest in the making of this book. I've carried it in a haversack out of the library and have placed it beside me on a bench where I am eating a sandwich and enjoying one of the best views in St Andrew's. Reminds me a bit of the second venue of 'Again and Against; at the Renaissance Society, Chicago, which was set in the old-seeming University part of the city.


Back to the cover of Whole and Parts:

'Seventy-eight trillion five hundred ninety-two billion fifty million one hundred forty-one thousand seven hundred and two.'

That's 78,592,050,141,702.

Which is a funny old number when you think about it. Why no tenths or hundredths or thousandths or millionths or billionths or trillionths? Seems bit convenient to have just ended in 'two'.

I crunch a few more numbers as I munch my sandwich. Food, shelter, and glimpses of both nothing - absolutely zilch - and the infinite. Who could ask for more?

Home, I lay out all the On Kawara books in my possession. From the oldest (top left) to the most recently published (bottom right). The most important books in the writing of this website to date have been the second and the seventh books, though all have made significant contributions.
Whole and Parts is the sixth book. The publication dates of the first seven books were 1974, 1980, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2000.


I know exactly how I will use
Whole and Parts. I will use it to make myself get through years 1991 to 1995 at a decent pace so that I can end this essay focussing on On Kawara in 1996, in the year of putting together this book. Though this plan may change if I get stuck into one particular year.

- January to December: 2, 1, 4, 4, 7, 5, 3, 2, 2, 4, 5, 6. Total 45 Date Paintings + 3.
- Akito, age 13 in April. Sahe, 12 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: none, but Date Paintings made in 9 cities.

It doesn't surprise me that On Kawara painted Dates in new cities. After all, 'Date Paintings in 89 Cities' began its tour in December, 1991, and presumably motivated him to visit new places so that they could be included in the book and get the number of cities up from the low 80s to the late 80s.

In the list below, the dates are included in
Date Paintings in 89 Cities (5th book in above photo), except the red dates which are reproduced in the 2012 volume Date Painting(s) in New York and 136 Other Cities (12th book in above photo):

6.3.91 Rotterdam. (That's where the
89 Cities exhibition opened in December, so On Kawara may have been previewing the space.)
8.3.1991 Dusseldorf (
30.6.91 Singapore (
JUNE 30,1991)
24.7.91 Hiroshima (
24JUL.1991) See below.
27.8.91 Anchorage (
AUG.27,1991) See below.
2.10.91 London (
OCT.2,1991) See below.
10.10,91 Hamburg. (That's where the
89 Cities show would go on to in March 1992.)
13DIC.1991, Milan
30 Dez.1991 Wien

The fact that Anchorage is in Alaska, means that On travelled far and wide in 1991. I feel I should map these movements from a New York perspective. The two blue pins are On's bases in New York and Tokyo. The red pins are cities he hadn't made Date Paintings in before 1991:


Six of the nine cities were in Europe, already much explored. If On had been wanting to make his list of cities more comprehensive, he would have done well to stop off in Africa and Russia to paint a few.

This was the year On Kawara first painted a Date in the UK. He travelled to London to do so, knowing that he was contracted to provide Date Paintings for a show at Lisson Gallery in summer 1992. A show I attended and which started off this whole enterprise, as I've written about

On's two bases of New York and Tokyo are on roughly the same latitude. The quickest way to fly between them is across the Pacific rather than over the Atlantic and Asia. Though sometimes On may have wanted to stop in Europe on the way back to New York from Japan, in which case he would have done better to fly across Asia.

Perhaps a flight between New York and Tokyo had to go by Anchorage(!), and On Kawara took the opportunity of Date Painting there. In any case, I think we had better see this Alaskan production:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I wonder what took On Kawara to Hiroshima. Perhaps it was a city he particularly wanted to be in 89 Cities. How deadpan is the resulting work? Not a hint of 6 AUG.1945. Though I've no idea what is said on the extract of the Hiroshima newspaper enclosed in the box.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Perhaps it's right that the atomic explosion should not be directly referenced. The radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki today, is on a par with the extremely low levels of background radiation (natural radioactivity) present anywhere on Earth. A level that has no effect on human bodies. Roughly 80% of all residual radiation from the blasts was emitted within 24 hours. Not that the citizens of Japan knew that at the time. Paranoia about nuclear fall-out persisted for decades. As long as 24 July, 1991? Well, On was happy enough to visit the rebuilt city, so that says something.

A month before the visit to Hiroshima, On Kawara was visited by Henning Weidemann in his New York studio. While On Kawara painted
JUNE 9,1991, his visitor set up a camera and took a set of 64 photos of the painting process, from 9.21am to 9.20pm. That's a painting (as far as the characters were concerned) that began with verticals, continued with other straight elements, and ended with the painting of the three 9s in the composition. In other words, On tackled the easier parts of the date first.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

Clearly this recording process echoed the one made in October 1990, in Rome, of
27OTT,1990. In fact, let's compare the two processes:

27OTT.1990 JUNE9,1991
No clock Clock
No ashtray Ashtray
Support - a glass Support unseen
Hairdryer Hairdryer
First painted '1' of 1990 First painted same '1' of 1991 or 'J' of June.
Last painted '7' of '27' Last painted second '9' of 1991

As we'll see, On Kawara recorded his painting process again in 1992. So I will expand on the above table soon enough.

- January to December: 2, 3, 3, 3, 2, 5, 3, 4, 6, 9, 3, 7. Total 50 Date Paintings.
- Akito, age 14 in April. Sahe, 13 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: four consecutive days in October from the 20th to the 23rd. Also, Date Paintings were made in two new cities, Vancouver (AUG.28) and Aachen (6 DEZ.).

Let's go straight to the beginning of August and the third year in a row that On Kawara had chosen to record his painting process. This time he is in his Tokyo studio. Is it significant that he's chosen AUG.6, the anniversary of the bomb falling on Hiroshima?

He begins the painting at ten past midnight. By 12.26 he has laid down the first coat of what I take to be Burnt Sienna. And by 1.05am the second coat covers the whole thing. That was five minutes after this photo was taken:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

The artist left it at that for the night. By the time he took the first photo in the morning (after getting up at an unspecified time), he had drawn his characters in pencil.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

He painted the '1992' then the 'AUG', and finishes with the '6'.

Note the
breve over the U of AUG. I wonder if On was able to paint this accent and not associate it with 1945. Putting the lid on the explosion. Sealing off the radiation.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

That above photo was taken at 11.46am, and this next, below, was taken at 2.14pm:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

Strangely, the painting seems to have got messier. It may be that the artist had rubbed the surface in such a way as to spread the white paint. But I can't think why he would have done that. So it may be simply the performance of the pre-digital camera. Is this just a less sharp image? The rendering of the background details suggests not.

By 4.39pm, the painting was a lot tidier.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

By 5.04pm, the painting had been rubbed down and was looking rough again. Like a bomb-site, I can't help suggesting.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

But the work went on for five more hours. By which time (almost 10.30pm) On Kawara was happy with the result.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

Returning to the table:

27OTT.1990 JUNE9,1991 6 AUG.1992
No clock Clock Clock
No ashtray Ashtray No ashtray
Support - a glass Support unseen Support unseen
Hairdryer Hairdryer Hairdyer
First painted '1' of 1990 First painted first '1' of 1991. First painted '1' of 1992
Last painted '7' of '27' Last painted second '9' of 1991 Last painted '6'.

On Kawara did not follow up the painting of 6 AUG with a painting on 9 AUG, which was when the bomb fell on Nagasaki. The next Date Painting was not until the 12th of August.

Let's move on to December, when On visited Germany once again. He had been awarded the Aachen Art Prize. This is awarded every two years, and Richard Long had won it four years previously. I don't know, but I expect either Konrad Fischer or Kasper K
önig were behind the awarding of the prize to On Kawara, either directly or indirectly. The prize went with a solo show at Ludwig Forum, and it seems On attended the December exhibition, because he painted this in Aachen:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On has included photos of this show in the third section of Whole and Parts. This is a good place to mention that the 700-pager is divided into three sections. Firstly, works of art, which is where the photos of the painting of 6 AUG.1992 can be found. Then texts written about On Kawara's work from 1970 to 1995. And, finally, photos taken of exhibitions over the years. The following two photos of the show are credited to Wolgang Becker.


It seems that the Date Paintings came in two-by-two. Which works fine for
24 FEV.1969 (note that the same newspaper clipping was used for both Date Paintings) but seems less appropriate for 28 FEV.1969 and 9 MAR.69


The fact that this show focussed on 1969 is confirmed by the publishing in 1992 of 'I MET', 'I WENT' and 'I READ' for 1969. Paperback editions of these three books, along with On Kawara's 'Journal' for 1969, were made available by Walther König of Cologne. This work, four books in a slipcase, is now very scarce. Effectively, it has been superseded by the complete (1968-1979) edition of 'I MET' etc, published by Michele Didier from 2004.

And don't imagine that 'I GOT UP AT' was left out of the show. This photo taken from
Whole and Parts, shows three vitrines full of postcards that have been called back.


Are they all from 1969? Well, all the ones (six) are that I can make out with a magnifying glass applied to the nearest vitrine in the
Whole and Parts reproduction. I believe that a maximum of 365 x 2 postcards were divided between the three vitrines, though a certain number of the postcards would have been missing, which is perhaps why a full book of 'I GOT UP AT' was not attempted at this stage.

- January to December: 5, 3, 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2. A total of 41 + 1 Date Paintings.
- Akito, age 15 in April. Sahe, 14 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: none. But a Date Painting was made for the first time in Paris (20 Fev. 1993) and Bordeaux (27 MAI, 1993).

A quiet year for On Kawara, you might think. But not so. 1993 would prove to be his most visible year of all. I'm not sure the following scenario has been described in any detail before. I will attempt to do it justice.

The year began with the
89 Cities show on display in Boston. But it also began - possibly as a logical response to the '89 Cities' exhibition - with the following:


1000 paintings from the Today series? Was this claim feasible? Well, On Kawara had painted Dates as follows:

1966: 241
1967: 201
1968: 136
1969: 104
1970: 139
1971: 126
1972: 63
1973: 85
1974: 71
1975: 103
1976: 40
1977: 37
1978: 38
1979: 44

A total of 1428. Plus an average of, say, 50 per year from 1980 to 1992. 12 x 50 = 600. Giving a grand total of approximately 2000 Date Paintings by the end of 1992.

Quite a lot of these were painted away from New York, but it's still easy to see how a display of 1000 paintings made in New York would have been possible, in particular because On Kawara had been stacking his paintings systematically in a New York storage facility!

On Kawara included a photo of each month's installation in
Whole and Parts. Though, as you're about to see, the image for January doesn't give much away. But what it does suggest (and photos of later installations confirms) is that the monthly displays began at the beginning of 1966, and progressed chronologically.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993

The Date Paintings were given so much prominence around the world in 1993, or at least in Europe and America, that I must take it month by month. Before the end of January, three (or four) Dates were displayed as part of a group show, curated by René Denizot, whose title translates as: 'The world in pieces, the work fractured'. This exhibition was held in the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris, and I can't find any pictures of it except the two very similar ones reproduced, at On Kawara's request, in Whole and Parts.


I've taken a look at the Dates through a magnifying glass, and I think they were three (or
four) of the four consecutive days painted in October, 1992, from the 20th to the 23rd, which I highlighted as a significant period of Date Painting in the paragraph opening the 1992 section of this essay. In other words, this was On Kawara co-operating with a trusted colleague.

On was in Paris for the show. I think we can safely say this because the following painting was made in Paris while the show was up.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

By the time this small group show closed in Paris on the 23rd of February, the solo 89 Cities show was about to open (on 25th Feb) in San Francisco, at the Museum of Modern Art. Meanwhile, in New York, the Dia Centre had refreshed its selection of Date Paintings, which On Kawara represents in Whole and Parts with this image:

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

It seems that it took two displays, January's and February's, to cover 1966. In 1966 itself, On had succeeded in displaying the whole year's Date Paintings concurrently only by having two or more rows of Dates going around the walls of his loft studio. What one gains in viewer-friendliness one loses in overall impact. Nothing can be more certain than that On Kawara attended each monthly display of his Date Paintings in 1993. After all, it was only a short tube ride from 140 Greene Street to 548 West 22nd Street. The three red circles in lower Manhattan on the map below, show the relative positions of 140 Greene Street (most southerly circle) to where the first Date Paintings were made in 1966 (
405 East 13th Street: easterly red circle) and where they were displayed in 1993 (548 West 22nd Street: westerly and northerly red circle).


Any person jetting around the world trying to keep abreast of On Kawara's Date Paintings would have done well to stay in New York for a few days until the March installation was installed at the Dia Center. Here is a photo from
Whole and Parts:

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The image illustrates the set up at Dia Center for the whole year, in that there was a large gallery with the changing display of Date Paintings. And there was a smaller adjoining room with table and chairs and the Million Years Past volumes. This surely echoes 1966, when On Kawara sat in his inner sanctum painting 'Today', while being vaguely aware of vast periods of time that had gone before. He sat there painting in his inner sanctum while the majority of the year's Dates hung on the walls (and leant on the walls) of the larger part of his studio.

All of the Date Paintings done from April 1968 until April 1969 were made in Mexico City or other cities in South America. Those would not have been displayed as part of the Dia show. However, April's instal would have been particularly exciting for On Kawara as it included the moon landing triptych from July, 1969. Would On have seen the paintings side by side before? That depends how big his 1969 studio was, his huge 1966 studio having been by then disposed of. But I don't think the paintings would have been exhibited together before. Being particularly large, they were difficult to handle, and so this may have been their first public showing.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The following photo of the May instal, gives the best impression of the size of the Dia Art Center and how the paintings were displayed in certain months. Some hung on the wall while others lay in vitrines beside their boxes.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

In the foreground you see MAY11,1971, MAY12,1971, MAY13,1971, MAY15,1971 MAY16,1971 and MAY 17, 1971. On also made two dates in New York on May 14, 1971 so either they were hung on the walls or were not included in the show, perhaps because the paintings had been sold and were hung elsewhere.

I expect On Kawara stayed in New York until he'd seen the June hang, which wasn't to be changed until the gallery reopened again in October, after its summer closure.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

Again, there is an omission from this sequence. APR. 2,1972 was painted in New York. Also, by separating these paintings from there boxes, the viewer may not have been given the sub-titles. The sub-title for MAR.30,1972 is: "A party of 28 Chinese table-tennis players in Ottawa, Canada." The sub-title for APR.1,1972 is: "Thousands of North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops have driven past South Vietnam's northern line of defences below the demilitarised zone and are pushing South Vietnamese forces in disarray toward their rear bases." Thus the artist goes from the playful to the serious; the historical to the timeless. As was his remorseless habit.

Let us turn our attention back to Europe, where a huge and important group show opened in the German city of Wien on May 26, running until 25 July, 1993. 'Broken Mirror', curated by Kasper Konig and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Participating artists, as well as On Kawara, included Ed Ruscha, Sigmar Polke and Marlene Dumas, but there were dozens. Perhaps this show had been some time in the planning as On Kawara had visited Wien and made a Date Painting there in December 1991.

On Kawara's work can be seen in this picture, as can Ed Ruscha's. However, it is a magnifying glass job to identify which days were there. The first Date Painting would seem to have been JAN.6,1993… The magnifying glass fails me at that point, but it does suggest that the first three days were painted in January, 1993 and that the next two were made in February. The 100-Year-Calendar suggests that JAN13,1993 might well be the next painting, followed by two of the three he painted in February: FEB.7, 14 and 20.


Again, this is an example of On Kawara co-operating with a trusted colleague, Kasper König. On would have to be interested in a group show to contribute to it. And the easiest way to interest him was for it to be suggested by the people who knew his work and his intentions best.

On took the opportunity to visit Bordeaux, where he made a Date Painting. Please ignore the black mark on the first 9, which results from my scanning process.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The newspaper extract contains a handy map, showing where On was in France. He was there to suss out yet another very ambitious show that was scheduled for December of 1993, which I'll get to soon enough. But the idea was that the gallery would celebrate having been open for twenty years with a show of On Kawara's Date Paintings. And I imagine that it was On Kawara's suggestion that a Date Painting from each month from May 1972 to November 1993 would fit the bill. That's 247 more Date Paintings to be added to the 1000 to be added to the 89 on display in this ground-breaking year of 1993.

It would not surprise me to learn that 1993 was the year that On and Hiroko bought a flat in Paris, because many of the paintings that year were made in France, judging by their format. And as well as the Paris show in January and the Bordeaux show, a dozen Date Paintings, one from each month of 1993 was permanently installed at Chateau d'Oiron by the end of the year. On was one of many famous artists to be included in the commission, and the show opened in June.


But clearly the July - December paintings couldn't have been installed until later than June, so I will leave until the end of the year to explore this glorious installation.

For now, here is a photo of the Chateau's exterior.


And here is map of France showing the places that On Kawara had connections with. The above chateau is the red circle located in the vicinity of Nantes. Nantes is on the same latitude as Villeurbanne where the 'Whole and Parts' exhibition would be installed in November, 1996. South of which is Dijon, home of le Presses du Reel and Le Consortium, the gallery where On Kawara showed alongside Giacometti in 1990.


The high speed trains radiating from Paris means that all these regional centres were easily accessible from the capital, which On Kawara chose as his European base.

On Kawara spent August in Japan, the three Date Paintings made that month all being in the Esperanto style with the
plene accent topping the U.

But On would have been back in New York to see the Dia Center open with its new set of Date Paintings in October. Actually, I think he stopped off in Europe, because paintings 28.SEPT, 2OCT and 5OCT all exist. And these are neither New York-style nor Esperanto.

Anyway, I feel sure On would have been in New York before the end of October in order to catch up with the display at the Dia:

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

OCT.18,1977, OCT.22,1977, OCT.30,1977, NOV.5,1977. That corner of the display would have taken On back to the autumn of 1977, when Hiroko told him that she was pregnant. NOV.5,1977 was the start of a phase of red paintings.

He also made Date Paintings in New York on October 19,1977, and October 26, 1977, but perhaps these had been sold.

Onto November's installation. Because his productivity was less by the late 1970s, several years output could be shown at once in the Dia Center.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The 100-Year-Calendar tells me that no Dates are missing from the above sequence.

The photo in
Whole and Parts representing the December installation, below, shows a jump of ten years. So the 1981 Dates in the November shot must have been from near the beginning of the display, just as the 1991 Dates in the December shot must have been from close to the end of it.

One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

MAY 7, MAY 19, MAY 20 and MAY 22, 1991, are missing from the above sequence. As are June 1, June 4 and a second June 6, 1991. Which suggests that a smaller proportion of Dates from these more recent years were on show.

Back to Europe in December. To stay at the new Paris flat? Then to take the fast train to Bordeaux in order to see this:

Installation, capc Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 1993

Although this is spectacular, I have my reservations about this. I guess that was On Kawara's reaction as well, as this kind of display has not been attempted subsequent to 1993. Usually, the preferred way of installing the paintings is in chronological order at eye level. The above curation, seen uniquely at Bordeaux, is a different way of getting the Dates across. Even in the knowledge that there were 247 Date paintings on the gallery wall, one representing each month from May 1972 to November 1993, one still doesn't really get it. There is nothing for the eye, or mind's eye, to settle on. In reality, one month follows another month in a regular way. But that's not what you see on that wall.

On was commissioned to design a book for this show. And so he took the opportunity to make it a cardboard box/book. Each of the 247 Dates was a page in itself. As you turn the pages, each painting disappears into its box, as it were. And all 247 of the boxed paintings are collected within a real cardboard box. Quite a neat concept. This is not to imply I have a copy of
247 mois/ 247 jours in my possession. Only 247 were made, and needless to say they are scarce and of great value.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The cardboard box is not as archival as On Kawara's own boxes. Indeed, the cardboard looks flimsy, and the staples evoke a stationery cupboard rather than an art gallery.

Back to Paris on a fast train. Then out to the Chateau d'Oiron on another. This time the trip (if it happened) was worth it, because On Kawara has had this commission in mind since the start of the year, and so had set aside one day each month to paint a Date of a certain consistent size and a royal blue colour.

Twelve Months, 1993, Château d’Oiron, Plaine-et-Vallées, France

The twelve Dates, were displayed at eye level and in chronological order over three walls of a beautifully proportioned, panelled room. Alas, there are very few images online to help build up the picture of this installation. But I gradually got there.


Twelve Dates. One per month. Months are moons, of course. The moon takes 29 days to rotate around the earth. As one's eye moves around the room, a line from
A Midsummer Night's Dream come to mind. Words spoken by Theseus to his queen, Hippolyta: "But, O, methinks, how slow this old moon wanes."

The name Hippolyta reminds me of something: I bet Hiroko, On's enthusiastic fellow-traveller, would have been part of this trip. At 14 and 15, the children would have been able to looks after themselves for a day or two. Or perhaps they made the journey as well.

Twelve Months, 1993, Château d’Oiron, Plaine-et-Vallées, France

The mirror complicates things greatly. Indeed there are two or three mirrors in the room.

But let me cut to the chase. The twelve monthly moon dates of Chateau d'Oiron are as follows:


Let us take the opportunity of walking clockwise around the room, pausing in front of each monthly moon.


Painted in New York. On would have made an exact record of the colour, as he usually did, and would come back to it each time he wanted to make another picture for the Chateau d'Oiron.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this JAN. moon wanes!"


Still in New York, painting this FEB. Date. Having seen the Dia Center display of Date Paintings in January and in February. But, having completed this second of the Chateau's Date Paintings, the artist flew to Paris.

On what side of the Atlantic was On when the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco opened its leg of
Date Painting in 89 Cities on February 25? That together with the Dia Art Center's display of New York Date Paintings surely represented a high-point for On Kawara's reputation in the States.

On: "Look, Hiroko, King of America."

Hiroko: "I always knew this day would come."

On: "But, O, methinks, how slow this FEB. moon wanes!"

29 MAR.1993

Possibly in Paris. Certainly in Europe. Having seen René's group show towards the end of February. But having been back to New York to take in the March display at Dia Center and possibly having travelled to San Francisco to see the 89 Cities show. But for now Date Painting…

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this MAR. moon goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth across the Atlantic!"


Back to New York to see the April display. And what a treat to see the moon landing triptych! What joy to be Date Painting with JULY 16, 20 and 21, 1969, in mind.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this American moon wanes!"

30 MAI.1993

Back to Europe but not until having seen the May display at the Dia in New York. In Germany, a visit to Wien to meet up with Kasper and see how his Date Paintings looked in 'Broken Mirror'? Otherwise, setting up home (I suspect) in Paris, and checking out Bordeaux for the forthcoming show. In which vintage city, On paints another Date three days before this one.

"Now, fair Hiroko, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon. But oh, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes! "


Back to New York to see the summer set-up at Dia. Then back to Paris, is it? Well, in what other country is JUNE written as JUIN? Not in Germany, Not in Spain. I'm pretty sure that
JUIN is French.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this JUIN moon wanes!"


Back in New York in this year of near constant travel between Europe and America.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this JULY moon wanes!"

6 AŬG.1993

To Japan for the late summer. On paints the Date, which is the third in a Hiroshima triptych. The first was the painting of 24 JULY made in Hiroshima in 1991. The second was 6 AŬG.1992 made on Hiroshima Day in 1992. The third was, as I say, 6 AŬG.1993.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this mushroom moon wanes!"

28. SEPT.1993

Back to Europe in order to paint this picture. Where in Europe? Well, I don't know. 'SEPT.' is the abbreviation for September in most languages.

"But, O, On thinks, how mysteriously this SEPT. moon wanes!"

2 OCT.1993

Still in Europe (not Germany, so in all likelihood France) to paint this Date. Then back to New York to see the October curation at the Dia Center.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this OCT. moon wanes!"


Still in New York to take in the November install at Dia, then to paint this Date, the one which features Jackie Onassis in the associated newspaper cutting.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this NOV. moon wanes!"

17 DEZ.1993

Still in New York long enough to take in the December install at Dia Center. Then out to Europe in order to see the controversial hang at Bordeaux. Then to Germany (to talk strategy with Kasper?) and to paint this Date, the final one for the Chateau.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this DEZ. moon wanes!"

On Kawara's 60th year. And it passed
slowly, one moon at time. Because On was doing something different and stimulating every single day. For a start he was Date Painting. But he had given himself the gift of Date Painting for longer than twenty years by this time, and the art world had finally caught up with the enormity of that achievement. Everywhere he turned there was an old Date challenging him to distinguish it from the day in hand.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this old Date wanes!"

I have spent a lot of time setting out what went on in On's world in 1993, as I suspected I might. So I will end this essay here, and use another page to get as far as 1996 and the putting together of
Whole and Parts. But before I go, I need to say something else.

The 12 paintings that On Kawara presented to the Chateau would look great inside any room in the world. They bring the weight of a lived year into a living space. The day being lived meets the year - divided into twelve months - of lived life.

They would also adorn the exterior of any building in the world. And to prove my point, I've looked up Wikipedia for a list of outstanding new buildings opened in 1993. From the list of three, I've looked up one of them: The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which is located in Managua, Nicaragua. Below is an image of it which I have manipulated slightly (ahem) in order to illustrate my point.


The Church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! (No sex please, we're Catholics.)

If that is not an entirely serious image, then it brings to mind a serious point to do with religion. The Christian religion. Why was On Kawara spending so much of his life painting the number of years since the death of a man called Jesus Christ? That number had risen from 1966 to 1993 while On Kawara had been recording it.

Jesus Christ does not play a part in Buddhism, which is the religion that On Kawara was raised in. In Japan, the date was traditionally expressed in terms of the life of the Japanese emperor. For some functions, a switch was made to the Gregorian calendar on 1 January 1873, but for much domestic and regional matters the Japanese year was retained.

When one thinks about it (and there is no question that On Kawara thought about it a lot) the '1993' is a very arbitrary thing. But humanity has agreed on it, and as well that number as any other.

Increasingly, 1993AD or 2022AD, would be thought of as 'Current Era', being represented as 1993CE or 2022CE. And I think this makes sense. However, On Kawara used BC (or AD) after every one of the million years in
Million Years Past. And he used AD after every one of the years laid out in Million Years Future.

To some extent it goes back to the dropping of the bomb on Japan in 1945. As well as killing hundreds of thousands of people, the atomic bomb effectively got rid of the Japanese Gods. At some level, On Kawara was acknowledging this power shift every time he painted '1' followed by '9' followed by '9' followed by '3'.

An act of solemn respect, then. But how much irony was involved in the act?

I'm reminded of the scene at the heart of Evelyn Waugh's
A Handful of Dust. The novel's protagonist, Tony Last, finds himself lost and dying in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. He is found and restored to health by an elderly indigenous man, who encourages Tony to read aloud from the books of Charles Dickens, of which the illiterate Amazonian, oddly enough, has a complete set. In return for meals and shelter, Tony is effectively forced to read one huge book after another, and when he has read each and every one of them, he is given no choice but to start again from the beginning of Little Dorrit.

Does that parallel On Kawara's position? The artist playing the role of both Evelyn Waugh and Tony Last, and Jesus taking the place of Charles Dickens?

And if there was a lot of irony in the Date Painting enterprise. So that you could consider each Date Painting a joke (as well as whatever else they were). Then was the joke not on the artist and his one and only life? In which case, it wasn't a joke at all but deadly earnest.

Oh dear, where did that conclusion come from? I did not sit in front of my Mac this morning (FEB.9,2022) expecting to lead up to these words. Instead, I expected this last scene to take off in a way that it hasn't. I am not thinking straight. Is it a Full Moon tonight?

Time for a Date Painting, I suspect. But it's already 11.36A.M. and I don't want to be chasing myself for the rest of the day. (I know from past experience that I feel much happier about a DP day if I get started as early as possible, and in any case before 9A.M., so that I can expect to have pencilled-in the characters before lunchtime.)

Today I need to rest. I will leave my Date Painting until tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, which would be FEB.10,2022 or FEB.11,2022.

Is that decided, then?

Nothing is decided.


Update. A cold and windy day. It felt good to be warm and safe indoors, occasionally focussing on the fact that it was February 10, 2022, and for the rest of the time just getting on with stuff.


Nobody can paint and read at the same time.

Nobody can paint and write at the same time.

Or is it worth having a go?