1973 (2)


On and Hiroko flew back to New York. For two days, the I GOT UP postcards were sent from 24 East 22nd Street. It is intriguingly tough to keep up with these New York addresses. I'm assuming for now that Hiroko was no longer living at 53 Greene Street, but was instead living on East 22nd Street. But if that's wrong, I'll issue a correction in due course.

One of the daily postcards was sent to Choyoshi Kawai, an artist with links to James Turrell, based in Santa Monica, California, though there is very little about her online. It's her postcards that Kasper Konig published in On Kawara: One Year's Production in 1974. I don't know who was getting the second postcard at the time.

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

From March 23 for 11 days, the I GOT UP postcards came from 97 Crosby Street. That's the address that in 1969 applied to On's friend Hirotsugu Aoki, but he vacated the flat in order to live with his professor girlfriend. Let's bear in mind that On Kawara also had the 340 East 13th Street studio address that he's used the previous year for postcards to Pontus Hulten. Then there was the 65 East Broadway address, associated with Kasper König in 1967, also used the previous year on postcards to Pontus Hulten. When in New York, On Kawara was absolutely spoilt for postal addresses.

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

On Kawara was not Date Painting in this period. I imagine he was completing his Journal for 1972 as it was the first time he'd been back at base since November of 1972. I imagine also that he was making preparations for his next trip, to Nova Scotia in south east Canada. Now there is a mystery here, as OK went to Nova Scotia on April 4, but came back via three days in Boston a couple of weeks later. Then he was in New York for another 25 days before travelling to Nova Scotia again on May 14. I know that Hiroko was with her husband on at least one of those trips, because of an anecdote (which I'll get back to) of their time together there, but which one? I'm sure Hiroko had her own independent New York life, so I imagine she went to Nova Scotia for the two-week break, not the four-month one. Here is what Lawrence Weiner said about Vancouver in relation to Nova Scotia.


Note the expression 'if you had to go there'. On Kawara felt he had to go there because his old friend (and support in the art world) Kasper König had invited him. Hiroko had to go there because she'd always got on very well with Kasper, and because that's where On would be, and they'd just been apart for the best part of four months.

The address On (and Hiroko?) stayed at was 6136 Coburg Road. Again, these are from the book,
One Year's Production.

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

On Kawara made his first Nova Scotia Date Painting on April 7. I have access to a single I WENT from April, and that is for the next day, April 8.

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

I've travelled the route with Google. Quite a lot of walking was done on April 8.

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

I've learned from Google that Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been rebuilt. The college has moved. The house that On Kawara stayed at has been knocked down and redeveloped. The place he went to on Pepperell Street (the square at the top left of the red circuit) has also been redeveloped. But the small square that On Kawara explored above Sackville Street is the following building, which dates from 1970:


A visit was also paid to the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts, as it was then called, the point furthest right on the circuit of red biro.


But the highlight of the day's cultural wandering may have been the squiggly stroll through the parkland with the citadel at its centre. It's the symbolic centre of Halifax.


Vast stretches of mown grass and of bare stone…


And right at the middle of the Citadel, centre-point of the Army Museum, guarded night and day by two kilted soldiers, is a tiny bottle of olive oil that no-one knows what the hell to do with.

That's Lawrence Weiner's joke, not mine. I won't be casting cultural aspersions until - and unless - I'm surer of my ground.

As for On Kawara, how did he commemorate April 8, 1973? With this postcard

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

A bust of Walter Scott at the entrance to the Public Gardens in Halifax. Old two-brains himself! The Scot that so took the readers of the nineteenth century by storm that, at one time, of all the books that had ever been sold in the world, he was the author of half of them. I forget the source of that observation, and whether half is the exact fraction, though I suspect it is. It explains my astonishment at reading it. Though Charles Dickens's subsequent success meant that such a record didn't last for long.

Moving on:

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

A sports page? No symbolism where none intended.

If I'm right about Hiroko accompanying On on this trip to Halifax, then the anecdote that occurs in the Phaidon
On Kawara applies to this period.


I suspect the fishing for salmon came in the second, longer trip to Nova Scotia and that Garry Neill Kennedy is conflating the two trips. But it could also mean that Hiroko came with On on the second trip, as well as - or instead of - the first one.

Although it's good-natured and warm, it's not a particularly generous tribute. After all, we learn from Barbara Brown in the same section of the same book that On Kawara used to win at whatever game the foursome - made up of On, Hiroko, Kasper and Barbara - were playing, and that she and Kasper had tried to invent games with the purpose of coming up with something that he didn't become master of. In vain.

GNK describes On Kawara as perplexed and ultra-cautious. That is not the picture of On Kawara that has developed in my mind. Even here, the forty-year-old is joining in with a game that he does not know, showing a cultural curiosity that is typical of him.

Actually, I remember poker being popular in Britain in the 1960s, so I played some then. You have to be able to calculate certain probabilities. And you have to learn the knack of making it count when the cards fall your way. Nothing is worse than having a full house, or similar, and not being able to contain your excitement so that everyone else folds and the pot is peanuts.

I'm certain that On
Kawara would very soon have been good at poker, that game of the Wild West frontier. Probability calculated; check. Behaviour set to repeat; check… Is On bluffing? On must surely be bluffing. Call his bluff then. Show him who's boss.

König: "I'll see you."

On Kawara: Turning over his postcards, all of which are addressed to Choyoshi Kawai, all of which show the 6136 Coburg Road address, and each of which show his getting-up time in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as 8.13 A.M., 8.14 A.M., 8.15 A.M., 8.16 A.M. and 8.17A.M.

Kasper K
önig (groaning): "A Kawara flush."

How the students must have loved it!

Today I received in the post an enormous 455-page tome called
The Last Art School: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 1968-1978. It allows me to fill in a few blanks. Indeed, it allows me to see how On Kawara fitted into the art school. In short, he didn't.

On April 4, 1973 (the day of the first postcard from 6136 Coburn Road) there was an artist's talk given by Douglas Huebler in the Boardroom on the 6th floor of the main art college building at 6152 Coburg Road. A heated exchange followed it, led by Kasper
König who suggested that Huebler was using the word 'political' in an American way and in contrast to how Daniel Buren used it. I have little doubt that On Kawara was sitting quietly beside Kasper König as this discussion took place.

Let me try and paint a picture of On Kawara in Halifax with the help of reproductions from
The Last Art College.

It must have seemed like a good time for On Kawara to be visiting Nova Scotia, as Daniel Buren was artist in residence. Buren was the artist whose political gesture during the Guggenheim International group show in 1971 had upset several of the other participating artists, though On Kawara would seem to have been unmoved. Buren always dealt with the same width of coloured stripes on white background. He would insist on his right to be totally free to do what he wanted to do, aesthetically, while simultaneously criticising an institution or authority. He crops up on On Kawara's I MET list for Feb 15, 1971. Below is Daniel Buren sticking striped paper to the brick frontage of the main art school building while On Kawara was in Halifax.

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

And below is Daniel Buren sticking different coloured stripes to another building in Halifax. On Kawara was in town for the first three days of this week-long process.

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

In due course, a set of postcards were made which drew attention to the architecture and the landscape as much as to the artist's coloured stripes.

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

No doubt if I had access to I WENT for the appropriate days I would see that On took himself to both the art gallery and to the building at the junction of Granville and Buckingham Street.

Take April 12, 1973, for illustrative purposes. On Kawara got up and produced a postcard that he sent from 6136 Coburg Road. And he began a Date Painting by laying down four layers of background colour.

With that done, he took a break and wandered along Coburg Road. He posted his day's postcards and dropped into the art college. Walking through the Ann Leonowens Gallery - also the entrance to the whole art college - he passed through the door in the south east corner of the gallery and mounted the stairs to the Mezzanine Gallery.

Knowledge of the layout of Nova Scotia Art School comes largely thanks to the 1974 piece by Michael Asher:

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

In The Mezzanine, On Kawara scrutinised some of the brown and white material that was still stuck to the outside of the art college, over the brick exterior, from Daniel Buren's work of a few days before.

Standing in The Mezzanine, On Kawara may have been aware that this was where his own
Million Years Past had been installed for a single week of April, 1972. The only page in The Last Art School which mentions On Kawara substantially, is the one reproduced below, with its image of the 10 books of dates set out over a long table:

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

Why, in the whole book, is not a single mention made of the 1973 Date Paintings made while On Kawara stayed at 6136 Coburg Road as invited guest of Kasper König, director of Nova Scotia's publishing program? (Only three Date Paintings were made in April, 1973, but then, on his second visit, six were produced in May, nine in June and nine in July.)

Why is there no mention of the I GOT UP postcards Kawara sent in March, 1973 to Kasper König, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 6152 Coburg Road, Halifax, N.S.? Or of the postcards On sent from 6136 Coburg Road to
Choyoshi Kawai?

I think it's because On Kawara didn't deliver a lecture, or give an artist's talk, or offer tutorials to individual students. Although his work was championed by Kasper König and Dan Graham, a regular visiting Art Professor, popular with the students, this doesn't seem to have been enough for the students, or some of the teaching staff. There is the suggestion that the majority of students baulked at
Million Years Past. What was this list of numbers from 1 to a million? Could it represent the people killed by the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If so, that was the wrong sort of politics for a North American art school.

Actually, although that started off as a facetious comment, I feel it could partly explain why On Kawara could not make himself take part in the day to day life of the art school. At some level the society that had produced these students had decimated his people. How could On stand up in front of them and talk about his art, as if the bombing had never happened? All he could do was avoid the confrontation. All he could do was his own thing. To further the survival of himself.

But I speculate more wildly than usual. And I digress. Back to The Mezzanine. Its most popular exhibit was the one where John Baldessari, unwilling to travel to Nova Scotia because there was no money available for such a trip, suggested that the students be encouraged to scrawl 'I will not make any more boring art' on the walls of the gallery. And so they did.

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

This exercise went down so well that a lithograph was made at the college lithography department, and, four decades later, that lithograph was used to create the endpapers of The Last Art School. (Note the silver dustcover. The sumptuous book's production values are superb.)

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

'I will not make any more boring art' was installed in The Mezzanine in 1971. And yet just a few months later there was Million Years Past, which many of the students thought was the most boring piece of work ever made.

Cut to a much more popular visiting artist. Dan Graham came half a dozen times, once for six weeks. He had never been to art school as a student, and he took the opportunity of being a student while teaching. In particular, he took advantage of the audio-visual equipment, and the technical support for this department, which according to him was excellent. Dan Graham made film after precocious film.
The Last Art College is littered with images of Dan filming himself in crazy ways. The photos below show him naked, filming a student (I presume) who Dan has persuaded to take her clothes off, in order to explore notions of subjectivity and self-consciousness.

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

Retrospectively, we must ask the students of Nova Scotia School of Art and Design who was their favourite visiting artist. Not On Kawara, who did a lot of boring art, more or less in secret. Not John Baldessari, who didn't actually turn up at the college. Who, then? The cream of the students speak with one voice which travels loud and clear through the decades:

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder, Richard Landry, right.

But the students have been taught to question everything. By Garry Neill Kennedy, by Kasper König, by Dan Graham himself, by so many of the excellent teachers at The Last Art School. They soon realise that they have got a big thing right but some little things wrong. And that the little things can add up to a big thing. So they amend their answer:

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder, Richard Landry, right.

But, as I said, the students have been taught to question everything, over and over. And they realise they have learned a lot from the enterprise and perseverance of Daniel Buren too. And so they amend their answer for a second time, taking absolutely everything into account:

Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder, Richard Landry, right.

Isn't it wonderful to be at art college? I, like Dan Graham, never went to art college, not even Glasgow School of Art. The Lost Art College is a book I might write one day. Yet I, like the irrepressible Dan Graham, feel that I never left art college. Funny that. One could say that I'm writing The Lost Art College in these pages.


I have a feeling that On Kawara would have enjoyed his time at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, otherwise known as the Halifax Building Society. What's not to like?

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

After the initial ten days in Halifax, On (and Hiroko?) flew back towards New York, landing in Boston. They spent three days there, but most of the material I have access to is from the 15th.

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

The Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the dead in battle between the British and the Americans. Perhaps he'd seen the monument from the plane as it landed, or had visited it on April 14th. It seems that the drive from the airport (near right edge of satellite view) which goes north before taking bridges over towards Boston, passes close by the prominent landmark.


I'm pointing this out because the part of the newspaper that was included in one of the two April 15 Date paintings was a list of deaths.

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

One wonders if when doing two paintings in one day (as he did on April 15th, 1973), the artist did them consecutively, or in parallel. I think the latter, at least for the early stages, as painting the background is simple enough, but waiting for it to dry between coats takes a few hours in total.

As he got up early, I imagine he made the Date Paintings before going out of the plush hotel (the Bradford Hotel is now the Courtyard by Marriott) into town. The circuit taken that day was probably walked. As the route doesn't correspond to the current one-way system.

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

Here is a close up of the red route. There is nothing special about it in 2021, and I expect it was just an urban shopping district back in 1973.

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

It does culminate in Chinatown though. And I would guess that the comings and goings, the ins and outs, near the right edge of the I WENT map, are signs that On and Hiroko were trying to decide where to eat. The view up Tyler Street towards Beach Street.


On: "How about either of these places?"

Hiroko: "Do you want to eat sushi?"


On: "I will just have a look along Beach Street. But really it all looks fine to me. We are spoilt for choice after Halifax."


Hiroko: "Don't insult Halifax."

On: "How could I insult a place that Kasper is giving his all to?"


Hiroko: "I think the students loved the fact that the artist who had made the Million Years Past books was in their very own town, making paintings that celebrate the living, breathing day."

On: "I don't think they did. But it doesn't matter because I had a good time."


Back in New York, the postcards began to go to J. Castenfors in Stockholm. I don't know who that is, perhaps someone - not necessarily an artist or collector - that On befriended while in Sweden earlier in the year.

But that's not the way to begin this section. The way to begin is to say that by the middle of May, On Kawara would be heading back to Halifax, but before that he would have had a few weeks to enjoy New York. He did no Date Paintings in this period. However, I have access to a single I MET, for May 3, which I have been digging into:

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

Putting each name into Google reveals that there were several artists with a 'significant other' present that day. Claes Oldenburg and his partner Hannah Wilkes, both artists. Ansell Bray and his partner, Dina Silberman, along with her son from a previous marriage, David. Masami Kodama and his daughter, Nana.

Actually, I only know some of that information thanks to Ansell Bray, also on the list, who has a
website with a contact page. Ansell was understandably cautious about responding to me until he had okayed it with Hiroko, whom he is still in touch with. Apparently, Hiroko said that what he communicated to me was entirely up to him. Ansell Bray spends some months each year in Cape Breton, rural Nova Scotia, where he fly fishes. Indeed, fishing was one of his links with the group of Japanese artists active in New York from the 60s. But let Ansell respond in his own words to I MET of May 3, 1973:

'Although On listed all the people he met on a given day, they were not necessarily all in the same place at the same time. I think he met some of these people in a different place than other people. It doesn’t sound like a mah jong gathering. Perhaps a dinner at the Kawashimas,  but it’s odd that Kawashima's wife and daughter Koko are not mentioned. Also Kodama's wife is not mentioned. Many Japanese wives worked as waitresses in Japanese restaurants in the evenings. I would think that is the reason.'

Just what I need: informed insight.

'Hiroko Hiraoka is On's wife. Hirotsugu Aoki I mentioned before, at the time he was doing work In the On conceptual style, then went on to have a model making studio. I worked there for a time in the1990's. Polichetti, Wilke, and Oldenburg I did not meet although I think I met him at another time. Azuma was a silk screen artist who had a studio at 14 Greene Street where I had a studio at that time. Dina S. Was my girl friend who is now my wife. David was her son from a previous marriage. Masami Kodama is still a dear friend. Nana Kodama was Masami's daughter who tragically died after open heart surgery at age eight. Atsuko Shabata I don’t recall. Anyway, this was not the first time I met On Kawara. I met him in the mid 1960's. I remember going to his studio with Kodama in the late 60s to see his one million year book. I will write more later.'

Emails from Ansell establish the importance of Takeshi Kawashima to the group of Japanese artists. He and his wife Toshiko took over the loft studio that had been occupied by Ansell Bray's artist friend, Arthur Rosenbaum, in Beekman Street, lower Manhattan. That studio went the length of a block from Beekman Street to Spruce Street, and it was at the Spruce Street end of this that Ansell Bray had been working since 1961 or 62. The Kawashimas were the key to Ansell meeting On and many other Japanese Artists.

'After meeting Kawashima at Spruce-Beekman St.,we became friends and saw each other for dinners and social gatherings. Kawashima was very outgoing and seemed to be at the hub of a rather large group of Japanese artists living in New York. If you knew one you seemed to know them all. The artists I came to know included Masami Kodama, Kunio Izuka, H. Aoki, On Kawara, Shinohara,Toyoshima, Nobu Fukui, Norio Azuma, Shin Kinoshita, Kondo, Odate, Hiro Ihara, and others that I have forgotten or only made a brief acquaintance such as the Op Art artist Tadashi Kuaayama who I remember meeting in his studio making his paintings on a record player turntable.'

That's a long list of artists. Let's bear it in mind in the long term, But for now let's strip it back to a couple that are on the I MET list for May 3, 1973. First, Takeshi Kawashima, whose diagrammatic, gridded work is quasi a lot of things. Quasi-figurative, biological, functional and, above all, quasi-erotic:

Takeshi Kawashima, New York 480, 1968

Come to think of it, an alternative title for this work could be A Mah Jong Party at the Kawashimas.

Secondly, Masami Kodama, the father of the unfortunate child that died so young after open heart surgery.

Mobius, Masami Kodama, 2010

Ansell Bray has kindly sent me a photograph taken in Japan in 2013, that features four of the people who appear on the May 3, 1973 list. Let's call it 'Forty Years On'.

From left to right under the cherry blossom and alongside Junko Kawashima, Takeshi's second wife: Takeshi Kawashima, Dina Bray, Masami Kodama and Ansell Bray:

Reproduced courtesy of Ansell Bray.

Back to Ansell Bray's narrative of the past:

'After a few years at Beekman St., Kawashima moved to 7 Dutch St. I also moved into the same building soon after. It was there that I first met On Kawara. He avoided parties and Art openings as he did not like crowds, saying that he could not keep a list of all the people he would meet at these large gatherings. He did however come to the mah jong gatherings at Kawashimas as the groups were rather small. These games would sometimes go on for days. People would play for hours then nap and get up and play again. Although a lot of beer (beru) and scotch (scotchee) was consumed at these parties, I don’t recall On ever drinking anything alcoholic.

The fact that On Kawara didn't drink alcohol was first communicated to me by Jonathan Watkins.

Interesting what Ansell states about the mah jong games:
'People would play for hours then nap and get up and play again.’ I wonder if this accounts for On Kawara’s very late getting up times. I say yet again that in November 1969, in the I GOT UP postcards sent to Lucy Lippard, On only got up twice before noon in the entire month. It's just possible that ‘I GOT UP’ might not mean 'I GOT UP after a night's sleep’ but, on occasion, might mean ‘I GOT UP after an afternoon nap’. So I will bear that in mind.

One of the bonuses about being in touch with Ansell Bray is that I knew he might be a reliable first-hand source of information about On Kawara and Hiroko's return to Nova Scotia in May of 1973. So let's turn to that.

On May 14, the I GOT UP to J. Castenfors in Stockholm, tells us that On Kawara got up at 6.41 a.m. and that he had been sleeping on the Prince of Fundy, the ship that plied up and down the east coast of America taking passengers between New York and Nova Scotia. However, a day seems to go missing, as it's the I WENT for May 16 that records On's arrival in Halifax, and that's from the airport. Exactly the sort of one-off mystery I mustn't get bogged down in if I'm ever to finish this project.

On Kawara settled down to a period of Date Painting, as shown by this extract from his Journal:

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

With On having reduced his subtitle to the day of the week on which a painting was made, the work looks less political than previously. But I READ was carrying on. Unfortunately, the part of I READ reproduced in
On Kawara: One Year's Production only covers March and April.

An odd thing about the aforementioned book is the reproduction of I WENT. The maps are for June 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This is in no way a random or balanced choice from the year. Indeed the first four maps are similar in that On goes out of Halifax (he's staying at 6136 Coburg Road again) to Musquodoboit Harbour.

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

What did he do there? Well, I reckon he must have fished. No, not must have - might have - fished.

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

Clearly, On Kawara has been in control of the I WENT maps that were reproduced in One Year's Production. He has not just given the whole year of maps to the editor and said, 'pick what you like'. By focussing on these days, he emphasises that for him there is no life-art division. True, he has Date Painting days and he has fishing days. But one is not more important than the other. The fishing days complement the painting days.

Let us fish. Everyone is a fisherman. So let's fish.

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

I have not yet taken the opportunity of asking Ansell Bray about the goings on in Musquodoboit Harbour. But I have asked him about 1972, when On began his connection with Buttergrove Camp in the Catskills, fishing for trout on the Beaverkill River that runs through Roscoe. To which Ansell responded:

'O.K. on the Beaverkill in June, July and August of 1972. I would have been a seasonal resident in Nova Scotia by then, summer and usually fall. On knew how to fly fish by the mid to late 1960s. On was not tied to a job like most of the others, so he could go when he wanted. The Japanese fishing group was an ever changing cast of characters. I taught them to tie flies not how to fish.They probably learned that by osmosis, word of mouth and doing. On definitely would not have done his paintings while fishing. Trout fishing involved wading around in fast moving water, not sitting on the river bank.'

And while sea fishing? On Kawara didn't do any painting while going back and forth to Musquodoboit Harbour either. However, the I WENT reveals he didn't go to the harbour on June 5. And that day he did do a Date Painting. Here is his schedule of Date Painting for June:

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

He worked pretty hard in July as well. Though I don't know what he got up to between July 10 and July 22. Fishing at the top of the bay, I'd guess.

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

And so we come to August. From the web, I've downloaded this glimpse of a volume from the complete I MET, open at this double page.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

It's hard to make out, but the names on August 1, 1973, are:

Hiroko Hiraoka
Ilka Katherina Schellenberg
Hubertus von Allworden
Jacob Von Allworden
Gerald Ferguson.

Ilka was Kasper König's partner and I have asked Ansell who the others were. But the main thing to note is that this is proof that Hiroko was in Canada with On. She may have come with him on the Prince Fundy in the middle of May. Or she may have joined him nearly three months later for the fishing trip that was about to begin.

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

Ansell Bray: 'On was at the Nova Scotia College of Art as a visiting artist. Dina and I met On and Hiroko at the Marquis of Dufferin motel on the south shore of the mainland east of Halifax N.S. The next day we fished for grilse on the Ecum Secum river. I have some wonderful moody photos of On fishing on the Ecum Secum.'

I don't know precisely which day Ansell Bray is referring to. It may have been August 7. On that day, On Kawara would seem to have fished for salmon at the mouth of Salmon River. But there is a two-way arrow on his red route at the right edge of the map, along with the words 'ECUM SECUM', written in red, though they haven't reproduced well in my scanner because of that edge being in the guttering of the book On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity.

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

The above map is hardly atmospheric or moody. Will I get to use the photos of On Kawara fishing on the Ecum Secum? Well, I hope so. The precedent that On set while he was alive was to allow a back view of himself at work on a Date Painting to be printed in
On Kawara: SILENCE. And, for a more relevant precedent, there is this photograph:

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

I've taken this image from the Phaidon volume,
On Kawara, where it is spoken of by Seung-duk Kim, a curator from Le Consortium, Dijon, France, in the following terms:

'One of On Kawara's catalogues has as its frontispiece a photo showing two people on a country path photographed from behind. One of the men is the artist himself. Kawara never usually lets people reproduce his photograph in books, so he must have had a good reason for it this time. The photograph was taken by Hiroko. The other man is a fisherman whom Kawara met on his way to the river.'

Which country are they in? Which man is which? I don't know.

On Kawara had a special relationship with fishing folk. So let's have a photo of him taken by the fisherman-artist who knew him well. Not a particularly identifiable one, but a 'wonderful moody' image, a blurry photograph that is of On Kawara. I visualise placing it here:


Why have I chosen this image by Richard Tuttle as a temporary substitute? Only
because it was to hand. Before communicating with Ansell about I MET from May 3, 1973, I had realised that a show of Tuttle's octagons had opened on or around May 3, and I thought that On and company just might have attended the opening together.

Me to Ansell Bray:
'It would be great to at least consider using the photos of On fishing on the Ecum Secum. I take it they wouldn’t be close-up or particularly identifiable - outdoor fishing photos don’t tend to be. But the fact that you would be assuring me that the photos were of On Kawara would give them gravitas and interest. Hopefully I could bounce the image or images off the ones in the postcards and those from Google in an effective way.'

And there the matter rests for the moment.

I've been told that after fishing for a few days on the Ecum Secum, On and Hiroko drove on towards Cape Breton.

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

Ansell Bray is again my source of information about this episode. But first the I WENT, which shows that On and Hiroko woke up in Margaree Forks and did not leave the boundaries of the map during the 24-hour period.

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

One can deduce that On and Hiroko fished at three different spots. First, near the top of the map. Second, middle right, near the word 'Emerald'. Third, close by, near the right edge of the map, where On waded into the middle of the river. Or at least that's how I interpret his red line.

The following map shows the river more clearly.


Let's introduce Ansell Bray's narrative:

'After that [the Marquis of Dufferin] we made our way by car to Cape Breton. I believe On started fishing on the Ecum Secum for a while before we met. I think they stayed on the Margaree for about a week. I remember raising a large salmon one evening. They got up very early the next morning and went back to the same spot. I think it was Hiroko who hooked the fish, which proceeded to head back to the ocean. Needless to say the fish got away. I think they were duly impressed with the power of an Atlantic Salmon.'

I wonder if the salmon was raised at this pool (below) which was visited on August 13. In which case (I jest) the escaping salmon may not have gone all the way to the ocean but simply round the loop of its emergency exit, which links up with the river a little upstream.


In the meantime, I replied to Ansell:

'When you say you raised the salmon one evening, do you mean it took your bait but it wasn’t hooked? Were you staying at your home and so didn’t need to stay at the Hillview Motel in Margaree? I think I said in an earlier mail that Ilka and Kasper were part of that trip. I think that may be an incorrect deduction. Perhaps you will know.'

Which elicited from Ansell:

'I can tell you that On and Hiroko came alone with Dina and myself. They were in a separate car and followed us to Cape Breton. They stayed in the motel as our house at the time was a tiny hunters cabin in the woods. Salmon angling in Canada is only allowed with artificial flies. No bait or lures are allowed. When a salmon “ Rises “, it means that he makes a big boil under the fly but does not take it.'

I took the opportunity to ask if there was a particular design of fly that On favoured for either trout or salmon fishing. I know On had a deep interest in both insects and aesthetics, so I'm sure he took the design of his flies seriously.

In reply, Ansell sent me this image. It looks just like the flies my own mother tied for customers of Crockharts, the shooting and fishing shop in my home town of Blairgowrie by the River Ericht, tributary of the River Tay, in Scotland.

Reproduced courtesy of Ansell Bray.

In a separate email, he added:

'l remember that On really liked to fish with dry flies. Although the big fish that they hooked in 1973 would have been on a wet fly because the water was high then. It was probably a Cosseboom which is very good in high water.'


I am getting into this. At one with nature. On Kawara versus the fish, with only a tiny hook of metal, dressed up as a juicy fly to help him.

The fly would only have been any use to On if he could combine it with endless patience. Endless patience and an endless line of nylon.

'Although the Kawaras only hooked the one fish in the Margaree in 1973, the very intense experience would draw them back.'

Below is what I call the 'third' pool that was fished on August 13. Perhaps it's where Hiroko hooked the salmon. Perhaps it's a pool that Hiroko and On would fish again on their return to Nova Scotia. I don't need to know.


An essential difference between fishing and Date Painting, then. At the end of a day of endless patience while Date Painting, there would be a finished picture. At the end of a day of endless patience while fishing, there was very little chance of there being a landed fish.

As Kipling famously said, we must treat those two imposters - success and failure - just the same. What matters is the lived day. Self-consciousness. Meditation. Oneself and the universe connected by paintbrush or fishing rod.

Ansell Bray, being a fisherman of long standing, puts it better:
'I cannot speak for what was going on in On’s mind about fishing and the experience of standing in a river but I think I have a good idea. For me fly fishing, especially for salmon, where you may spend hours or days in a quest to achieve a goal which may never happen, is a lot more than just catching a fish. The very beginnings of art were deeply connected to hunting and fertility. Acute powers of observation were necessary to be successful in hunting (fishing), this connects to the sacred, to meditation and to Art. When you fly fish all else fades into the background. I know all this may sound artsy and pretentious but, on the fly, it’s as close as I can call it at the moment. It is also an intimate connection to nature and beauty.'

After their intense fishing experience, On and Hiroko took a funny route back through Nova Scotia. What I mean is, after going to Margaree, towards the end of Cape Breton, they doubled back on themselves to stay in Sherbrooke. Before heading west to St John and out of Nova Scotia.


So let's see what the attraction of Sherbrooke might have been. First, the Marine Motel:

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

Nope, that in itself wouldn't have compelled a stop, except for the opportunity of more salmon fishing. What about the wider area? Well, if On and Hiroko had wanted another go on the Ecum Secum, travelling in the direction of Port Dufferin would have been the way to go. They could then have got to St John just about as easily.

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

Saint John is not in Nova Scotia. In other words, the road trip was nearing its end. This is confirmed by the fact that On Kawara took up Date Painting again now that his fishing days were at an end.

On Kawara drove and he date painted as he and Hiroko made their way home.

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

The stay in Saint John was just long enough to paint this.

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

And the stay in Portland was just long enough to paint this.

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

Note the word 'Kissinger'. The holiday was over. The real world was creeping back into the lives of the Kawaras.

Safely back in New York, On and Hiroko seem to have embraced their home life again. I'm supposing they went to at least one mah jong party hosted by Takeshi Kawashima. I believe that the honours tiles in mah jong include winds and dragons. And I believe that the bonus tiles consist of flowers and seasons. Yet all I can see in this masterly, teasing work by Kawashima are Atlantic salmon at various stages in their saucy life cycle.

Takeshi Kawashima, Red and Black, A-A, 1968

Let's finish with the photograph below. It shows two of the people who On Kawara met on May 3, 1973. Takeshi Kawashima and Ansell Bray. Every year they return to Cape Breton and try to hook the fish that got away from Hiroko.

Reproduced courtesy of Ansell Bray.

Correction. It looks as if Takeshi and Ansell finally came to understand what a superb pair of fisher-folk On and Hiroko were - always working as a team, happily married since March of 1973, by my reckoning. No art world fish of any size would ever escape from their double-hook.

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