​HACHIRO KANNO  :  LYRICISM OF DISCONTINUITY

 

               A strange lyricisme inhabits the works of Hachiro Kanno, a lyricism that aims to open  the viewer's soul to  a sublime experience.  To do so Kanno  borrows  forms from song and dance without, however, bringing into play the fluidity of discourse that caracterizes them.  Although Kanno uses ample one-off gestures he is careful to break their continuity in his  finished works.  For example, if we look at the recent triptyches on paper,  in each case the three panels together form a single composition but Kanno separates them from one another by an empty space, thus breaking  the continuity of  the white  painted surfaces.   We could say that Kanno's lyricism is a syncopated lyricism.   What he refuses to do is obvious: that is  to make paintings where, as in song or dance, the magic of  imperceptible transitions functions to make the onlooker forget the passage of time.  For Kanno beauty has meaning only in its relation to the ephemeral. Thus his passion for what is discontinuous, which alone allows the viewer  to make out and to combine in a single emotion the beauty of the work from  its first radiance to its final decline.  This is why it is always necessary for him  to signal the moment of danger and even better, the instant when the tragic attains its highest point before toppling over into nothingness.  The hiatuses that fracture and fragment his work function in as an economy of means.  They are there to create an effect of interruption, to fix the form in its move towards perfection, or to interrupt the concert of colors, for it is only at the edge of the precipice that  dizziness develops,  a dizziness resulting from the combining melancholy,   fear,  and the fascination with  what is happening.

         But these pauses, these interruptions of discourse,  are not only ephemeral figures or the expression of the painter's sensitivity to ruin. They also reveal that for Kanno  the world does not possess the unconditional stability of a substance, that it is constantly between disappearance and appearance.  This is echoed in the singular fashion with which he makes use of calligraphy in his works.   He is not only interested in using the traditional form of calligraphy to fix the illuminations of thought and because he uses  powdered mother-of-pearl the forms created take on new properties and  new meaning.  The effect of variations in  light changes and transforms them.  The almost unreal  infinite shimmering of the arabesques sometimes transforms itself into a glacial, diaphanous pearl grey, inviting the viewer to see beyond the significance of these forms the evidence of an uncertain world that seems to hover between being and nothingness, without ever definitely moving toward one or the other.  The powdered mother-of-pearl works wonders.  As an indestructible powder it is eternal, and in the  impalpable iridescence it produces it is  on the brink of non-existance.  It is the ideal material with which to fully express the impermanence of the world of phenomena.

         But Hachiro Kanno has not limited his  dialectic of discontinuity only to the painted surface.  He believes that the « raison d'être » of this dialectic requires consideration of the third dimension.  In effect, the breaks in continuity in the triptyches  that symbolize  the impermanence of the world cannot be reduced to their negative aspect.  These breaks are not simply blanks or gaps.  They are also, in the primary sense, openings.  First of all, the opening created by the two vertical spaces runs down the entire surface of the works.  It disturbs and attracts the eye, questions the viewer and finally puts him off balance.  And the color also has the same effect.  The grey can become a milky mist in which the light intermittently seems to disappear under the effect of the calligraphy.  Here, the effect of the indecisiveness of the color is  to cancel out the material surface of the works and to open a space of a totally different nature.

         It is as if we are being told that it is possible to go beyond the world of phenomena.   In fact, the eye plunges into the space beyond the work, the signs of which were produced by the work and the eye no longer has an object on which to fix itself.  One could speak of a total suspension of thought and intuition, of time abolished to the advantage of the eternal present and of whole that remains positioned in definitive immobility.  With this reversal of perspective, everything that was fluctuating and perishable, marked by discontinuity, reveals itself as illusory.  A Buddhist would say that the veil of Maya has been pierced revealing true reality; the unchanging reality of being and the reality of emptiness, the one being perhaps the reverse of the other.  Here,  a work of art evidently becomes a rite of initiation.

                                                                                                                                    Fernand Fournier, Paris, April 2009

Translation : Francis Wilson

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THOUGHTS ON THE WORK OF HACHIRO KANNO

 

In all truth, one shouldn't write or say anything about art of such supremacy that when  contemplated in silence reveals itself and, opens a door to  new perceptional consciousness.

 

Ultimately, one would not write or say anything were it common in Europe, when looking at art, to give the virtue of silence preference to loquacious eloquence. But when we are confronted by art, we are used to accepting it as a complex construct and to analyzing it, to determining its advantages and disadvantages, and to evaluating it from different perspectives. And not only contemporary art often raises the disquieting question regarding what the artist wants to say to us.

 

Hachiro Kanno's work, however, already distances itself from such questions at first glance. This confuses — and then again, does not. For any attempt to analyze it proves itself dilettantish banter and only weakens the essential: the contemplative immersion in another world.

 

The experience that Hachiro Kanno presents to us is one of a balanced view of the world and art in one. Born in Japan in 1944, as the son of a Shinto priest and renowned calligrapher he literally experienced, learned, and absorbed the traditional Japanese arts of calligraphy and painting from childhood onwards. Later, he studied w-estern-style art in Tokyo and Paris. Since 1968, Hachiro Kanno has lived and worked primarily in Paris and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and occasionally in Japan, but it was in France that he came to fully appreciate the traditions of Japan.

 

Shintoism, as a religion, venerates nature and life in all forms and also sees beauty in simplicity and clarity. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, Shinto arts play with perception and touch upon a reality that cannot be appreciated through the five human senses alone. The pictures and poems (haiku) aspire to stimulate the intellect into seeing and experiencing much more than just the specifics of the images and words presented.

 

Hachiro Kanno is a master of the ink brush, quickly and assuredly captures in the deepest black and the most delicate glazes everything in daily life that touches him while travelling the world. . He records it all in sketchbooks, often accompanied by one of his own haiku. These pen and ink sketches often evoke more for the viewer than the ink actually shows. For example, when Hachiro Kanno paints a small fleet of boats on the top of the sketchbook page — and nothing more, what we see in the lower "empty" area is the sea, absolute calm and without waves, luminous but not dazzling. We inhale the warm, slightly salty air, delight in the harmony of a quiet day.

 

Hachiro Kanno also opened his sketchbook during a sojourn in Kleinsassen in 2014 and captured  the village church and impressions from around the Milseburg. He captured the mood of the moment and, at the same time, the essence of the landscape: the rockiness, the gliding recession of the crests, the sparse vegetation, the misty valleys, the contemplative absorption of the view in the wide distance. And with ink and brush, which portrays not in excessive detail but rather through abbreviation, all the while revealing far more than any realistic photograph.

 

This reduced formal language, which apertains to traditional Japanese painting, reveals itself as almost non-objective in nature. At the same time, it is nevertheless beholden to the essentials. When everything concrete tends towards the imaginary, when the view is directed through and beyond the forms, the world of things can also disperse while simultaneously evoking images of the things. In doing so, the contradictory elements don’t contradict each other but, instead, flow into one another, creating a harmonious whole. As in the best-known sutra of Buddhism, the Heart Sutra: "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." Hachiro Kanno himself says, "Plein est vide et vide est plein" — full is empty and empty is full — and has named a whole series of works as such. Light and darkness (shadow) and their opposite are thematized. Painting, sculpture, and the art of calligraphy merge on paper and canvas, in objects and installations.

 

Time and again Hachiro Kanno returns to the basic forms of the circle, triangle, and square, which represent water, fire, and soil — the circle, albeit, also represents eternity and perfection. And for the enduring, the eternal, and the ephemeral, the flowing, Hachiro Kanno seeks and finds other forms as well: the stones, straw bales, and ponds in his installations. When the straw in Kanno's land art installation has burnt away, the stone that previously lay atop of the straw remains as the enduring, the eternal.

 

The experience, perception, and awareness of nature and life, of becoming and passing, of movement and perpetuity — these are the concerns of Hachiro Kanno as a person and an artist. And they are embodied in his newly created word, "permanescence": everything is in fluxion, yet the essence remains constant. The eponymous series of works returns time and again  to this fundamental question of existence. The chadō, the "way of tea", precedes all instances of artistic production as an act of purification and concentration. For the black ink, Hachiro Kanno rubs the ink stick  against  the inkstone himself,  and obtains the desired consistency by adding a bit more or less water : from deepest hardy black to the subtlest translucent gray. The red, blue, and white are acrylic paints, which dry quickly and don't mix with the ink, thus enabling a translucent superimposition of the ink and color layers — just as patterns, actions, and thoughts can overlap in nature and life. In a standing position, Hachiro Kanno uses his entire body to conduct the movement of the brush across the paper and/or canvas. As in the art of calligraphy, the action is executed in one flowing movement; there is no subsequent correctional overpainting. Each brushstroke and every drop is an expression of "permanescence", just as existence and eternity can also not be subsequently changed. On occasion Hachiro Kanno adds  a sutra to his paintings, written within a circular form or, more rarely, a rectangular plaque. "Sutra" means "thread". And threadlike,  the sutra is worked into the painting. The text can only be seen and read under specific light conditions, because Hachiro Kanno uses his own recipe for the ink created from crushed mother-of-pearl for the inscriptions.

 

Only a few Europeans are able to read and understand the columns of Japanese texts. The material and spiritual preciousness of the writing, however, is tangible to all. What one thinks and feels above and beyond the simple observation of the painting, whether one thinks of  feathers, of waves, of sand patterns or wood grains, and where these memories lead to...?

 

Hachiro Kanno's paintings are meditations on the essence of life in a comprehensive sense. The famous Japanese artist Hokusai once expressed the desire to live until the age of 110 because he hoped that by then he would have achieved the level of art in which each dot and every line would mean life itself. Hachiro Kanno is already close to perfection.

 

In all truth, one shouldn't write or say anything about art of such supremacy that it reveals itself when contemplated in silence and which, via this silent consideration, opens a door to a new perceptional consciousness — to "permanescence".

 

Dr. Elisabeth Heil / art director / Kunststation Kleinsassen

Translated into English by Francis WILSON

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PERMANESCENCE  by HACHIRO KAKNNO                                            

 by Hiroshi Aoki  

 

                  

Shiki Soku Zei Kû " Form is emptiness"

 

In March 2004, at the Fine Arts Museum of Tochigi  Hachirô Kannô

presented his performance entitled PERMANESCENCE.  It took place in a courtyard cleverly delimited by marble tiers that descend directly into a little pond.   For purposes of the performance, an "island" two meters in diameter had been arranged in the center of the knee-deep water of the pond.

 

The performance began by a kind of writing workshop.  The public was asked to use the paper and ink set out on a table beside the pond to paint or calligraph as they pleased, a wish, a dream, or a thought.  Then Hachirô Kannô delicately crumpled  up each piece of paper into a little ball and placed the papers side by side on the island.  He then placed himself right in the center of the island and with a magnificently light calligraphy brush stroke he wrote "something" on a wide length of white cloth that was hoisted into the air little by little.  Because what he  wrote was written in white on white it was hardly readable.  Once he had finished writing and the  the cloth had been hoisted to its full height, the artist rinsed his brush in the water of the pond and sprinkled some water on the crumpled balls of paper, after which he left the island.

 

Then the crumpled balls of paper that had been sprinkled with water  began to burn and when the balls of paper had been consumed, the flames,  fanned by the wind, spread to and destroyed the cloth hanging in the center, outlined by the sky.

 

In an instant, what the public had confided to the paper and what the artist had written on the cloth had been reduced to ashes.  In reality what Hachirô Kannô had written was "Form is emptiness".  Though it was impossible to read what he had

 

written , everyone was certainly able to understand its  significance:   everything is ephemeral, our thoughts are  fragile, ,  our hopes and dreams are vain and  even our daily preoccupations  can disappear in an instant.  Yes, the dreams and  hopes had literally returned to nothingness.  Nevertheless, the performance had succeeded in refreshing our minds and in freeing them for an instant from  the attachments (= form) of daily life.  The vacuity that some feel in their bodies and that others perceive visually, far from being emptiness had rather been welcomed as a plenitude of being.

 

For the layman (everyone is not a  monk or a philosopher) it is undoubtedly difficult to maintain "emptiness" inside of one's self.

Any  "emptiness" is destined to be rapidly occupied by a new thought.  Thus Man lives in the perpetual linking of "form = emptiness" and "emptiness = form".   To more precisely designate

the truth, the essence at the heart of the permanence of such a

relation, Hachirô Kannô coined the term PERMANESCENCE.  And this is the title that he has given to the works in the installation of this performance.

 

* famous passage of the Sutra of the Heart of Great Wisdom, one of the fundamentl Buddhist textx

 

* "shiki" designates the form, the color, the phenomena of  sensitivity in the world and H. Kannô interprets it as "full".

 

  PERMANESCENCE

 

This installation consists of 12 cube-shaped bales of hay measuring 50 centimeters on each side, on each of which has been placed  a stone about 30 centimeters in diameter  The stones are  placed at regular intervals in a straight line.  Starting at the center of the pond which is occupied by two or 3 bales of hay, the bales are placed in a northwesterly direction going up into the marble tiers beside the pond;

 

This installation can be considered a smaller version of the large-scale installation carried out  between a prairie and a river by Hachirô Kannô in French Brittany in 1997.  In Brittany, after the exhibition, the artist burned the bales of hay (and not  straw) and the effect  certainly must have been spectacular.  He would like to have done the same thing with the works in the installation at the Fine Arts Museum in Tochigi but because the museum is in the center of the city he was not able to obtain the authorisation.  This is the reason for his having added to the performance title "Shiki soku zei kû (form is emptiness).

 

Hay and straw are fragile, ephemeral materials that are quickly transformed, consumed by flames.  Stone, on the contrary, is hard, time does not act upon it quickly, and an ordinary fire does not attack its solidity.  It is a durable material.  This installation,  because it includes two materials that symbolize radically opposed concepts, liberates the existence of these tensions between them;    Of course, hay and straw are fragile and  ephemeral, but they are nevertheless a metaphor for the permanence at the heart of the continuing process, the work accomplished by man, the harvests that year after year assure the subisistance of human beings to come. Evidently,  it is the stone that  exemplifies this idea. This installation, while seeming to have been conceived on the basis of conflilcting concepts,  accentuates not  conflict but rather  synthesis, and in doing so it reflects the artist's world view.  Fire, so often used, symbolizes the nature of the extreme instant.  And it is important to notice that fire here is always used in close association with water because it is  the water that suggests the permanence to be discovered within the instantaneity of the fire.

 

As  Hachirô Kannô has indicated, the world is based on the synthesis of the concepts of the ephemeral and the permanent.

 Phenomena, events, and human affairs continually appear and then disappear.  Everything, by virtue of the continual process of cause and effect, continues to move from the past towards  the future.  All the mystic and religious currents that include  reincarnation as well as materialsm founded on determinism, have constructed their world view starting from this continuing process of cause and effect.

 

 

Circle, triangle, square

 

The volumes used in Hachirô Kannô's installation PERMANESCENCE include the square (bales of hay or straw)

and the circle (stone).  No doubt the sharp angles evoke the instant and the round objects evoke duration but the work gives the impression that the symmetrical conception comes not only from the materials but also from the form.  It is not the result notof chance but of the meaning that Hachirô Kannô intended to give to the square and the circle.

 

In his drawings and etchings the artist often uses the circle, the triangle and the square.  Who is not familiar with their representation in the famous painting of the zen monk Sengaî of the Edo period.  Daisetsu Suzuki, the  buddhist philosopher, comments:  "For Sengaî the circle, the triangle and the square represent the universe.  The circle indicates infinity.  Infinity is the foundation of all existence but it is itself without form....The triangle constitures the beginning of all forms, and it is from the triangle that the square is born.  Actually, the square is obtained by the addition of two triangles and from the moment that this process of division goes on indefiinitely, it gives rise to a myriad of things, what the chinese philosophers designate as , literally " the ten thousand things", in other words, the universe.

And according to the interpretation of the thought of Sengaï, the circle represents eternity, infinity, whereas the square represents transformation.

 

One can easily imagine that Hachirô Kannô was profoundly impressed by the painting of Sengaî, who was trained very young as a calligrapher and who knew how to use its ressources in his own original approach.  But even by starting from reflection on a form very different form calligraphy, he succeeded in producing a form identical to the original form.

 

Think of  Cezanne's famous phrase "treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere and the cone" Didn't it continue to inspire the artists

who came after him?  And more recently the English sculptor David Nash for whom the form of a tree carries the feeling of the existence of Nature.  He also considered  the circle, the triangle and the square as absolute conceptual forms because they do not exist in Nature. We could draw the conclusion from  the approach of these painters or sculptors that circle, square and triangle represent a universal matrix and that Hachirô Kannô's proposition concerns material as well as formal perception, the universal character that underlies the appearance and the transformation of all phenomena.

 

* in "Regards sur Daisetsu - Qui était Daisetsu Suzuki?", OKUMURA Mieki & UEDA Kanshô, Togeisha, 1999, pages 46-47

 

** in lettre de Cézanne à Emile Bernard , 15 April 1904

 

TIME

 

The work of Hachirô Kannô includes not only  material and form

but also another important element, time.  The very characteristic calligraphic strokes of his two dimensional works give the impression of speed.

 

The energetic brushstrokes that characterized Van Gogh and the expressionists who followed him were the  force behind  their expressive power or, as in the case of Tonbury, led to the construction of the work out of  hatch marks.  There are thousands of  examples  of the systematic use of line to obtain expressive objectives.  Nevertheless, it is rare to encounter works in which the agility of the stroke gives the sensation of speed.  But this is the case  in the work of Hachirô Kannnô  and it is admirable that he  has always known how to make the most of this inherent trait of calligraphy. And his sense of speed is never uniform. He plays  completely freely with line. When his line flows it  gives the impression of nonchalance as if he had taken his time with time.  Or, on the contrary, in other cases, when he breaks off a line, giving a feeling of extreme tension, time seems to be short.  Ideograms in calligraphy carry a specific meaning but Hachirô Kannnô deliberately diverts the use of  the traditional gestures to uncover the myriad plastic possibilities contained in calligraphy and its possible multiple formal effects.  In that respect time, only represents one among  many  other possibilities.

 

Agility expresses itself everywhere in Hachirô Kannô, and not only in his paintings.  It is present  in the acuity and the coherence with which he puts together his installations and his performances based on the brilliant concept of "permanescence" as much as in his manner of standing or moving during a performance.

 

Undoubtedly being the creator of "Permanescence" has bestowed upon him the grace of being able to discover universal truth in the fluctuations of his own life.

Hiroshi Aoki  

Head Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts of the Prefecture of Tochigi

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