Consideration by Takaomi Kuze (久世孝臣による作品への考察)

【About the world of Kanako Ozawa’s work】
Takaomi Kuze (poet / director)

 “This looks like it was made by someone from the future.”

 This was my initial reaction when I saw Kanoko Ozawa’s paintings for the first time. “Or maybe whatever it was that created humans decided to make something for them.” I feel the essential part of Ozawa’s work is this strangeness that emerges from the existence of something (humans). The fact of my body existing in this space, living, “being,” creates a strangeness of human existence that reveals itself despite, or perhaps precisely due to, our efforts to conceal or deny it.

 Might this strangeness not simply be an affirmation or praise of human existence, but also something which emerges from the accumulation of grief, vast emptiness, struggle, and despair that comes with being? Depicting these human struggles as strangeness is a way to acknowledge, tolerate, and affirm the existence of being. It’s similar to recognizing an inability to not laugh at an amusing story. There is affection in this strangeness, and I propose that the true appeal of Ozawa’s work is the way it perceives the strangeness of human existence from the vantage point of an affectionate gaze, similar to the frankness of a Basho haiku.

 I suspect that everything humans think about has meaning only to us. I cannot know what other animals think so perhaps this is a simplistic opinion, but humanity has discovered concepts like time and gravity as a way to gradually understand the world around us. However, since we are not the creators of these concepts, we actually do not understand them. Perhaps the world is in fact operating on a completely different set of rules and laws to everything that humans believe to be true. In many ways, contemporary human beings are living in a world of almost complete uncertainty and incomprehensibility. From a certain vantage point, time and gravity may be little more than ways in which humans have made the world a little easier to understand. They might not be the indisputable truths we think they are.

 Is there meaning in living?

 Human beings have a unique responsibility in that we are incapable of simply living and dying.

The things we “understand” while alive might not really be understood, but rather are simply things we think we understand. Ozawa’s work observes the workings of humanity with the power to make us question and reassess these fundamental truths. We derive meaning from living based on our subjective standards of the self. In this case, what happens when we examine humans from a more relativistic point of view? Imagine life as a physical, limited space spread out before us. As long as we are in that space, we can fill that life however we choose. Given this proposition, it follows that life itself does not have meaning. Instead, there is only action. There is no meaning to living, but rather living is meaning itself, thereby implying that each and every person is “meaning.”

 In Ozawa’s work, mere “existence” is meaning, and simply by existing the act of being is possible. I feel the characters in her work are attempting to convey something essentially enjoyable about the act of being. Meaninglessness, in other words the lack of meaning in living that stands out the more sincerely one struggles to live, is what makes the existence of being conspicuous. Sincerely engaging in something meaningless makes existence conspicuous and is what enables us to take pleasure in the existence of being. Even in a cruel and heartless world, capturing that instant and viewing it from afar reveals beings which are delighted to exist and affirm life through living. I cannot help but feel that the faceless, bag-wrapped figures in her work are described with affection as they go about the strangeness of their daily lives. Human beings can only be human beings. We can only do what human beings can do, and inevitably we end up doing what humans are able to do.

 Ozawa’s work takes on extremely contemporary motifs through its line, materiality, and color usage while recalling idols of ancient civilizations (*1). It is similar to a daily prayer, a strangeness with a special strength. These creations recall an era when “primitive” ideas of prayer and belief were central to daily life and have a refreshing quality that I rarely experience from contemporary work. Even in the apparent carefree, pastoral quality that exists in the humor and strangeness in her work, there is a definite reaction to the act of living. For example, when a child was born in the Jomon period, people recorded the shapes of the child’s feet and hands in earthenware. Ozawa’s work contains something similar to this awareness and feeling. It is not about making something grandiose, but instead feels like something ordinary and understandable which nevertheless retains the care and affection of the maker.

 As someone living in the contemporary age, Ozawa’s sensibility seems to be tied up in ancient ideas of imagery and idols where perceptions of time and space disappear, leaving behind a strangely pleasant feeling. As a viewer I find this to be very moving. She has the ability to channel the initial impetus of creation, a desire to leave a sense of care in formless things which are nevertheless capable of provoking strong reactions. But reaction is perhaps a strong word. Rather, it is something which most people in the same situation would do, and the soft strangeness and humor directed towards people and the world is more like sympathy and consideration. Ozawa’s affectionate gaze towards humanity is a fundamental human quality which has been lost throughout history in the name of refinement and progress.

 Over millions of years humans have honed various technologies, but I find it difficult to grasp a sense of compassion and understanding of the world in these forms. One of the differences between humans and other animals is that we have an ability to perceive our environment and express that to others. No matter how concrete that expression may be, the reliance on words and pictures means that the expression is abstracted. In other words, each separate being has a world that is unique to their own perception, which means that each communicated worldview is also different for each being. The abstracted reality expressed is only representative of reality for the one who is expressing it. Because our daily reality is fundamentally formed through interactions with others, we come into contact with different worlds and an accumulation of truths which are different from our own.

 I am constantly fascinated by Kanako Ozawa’s world. Her paintings make it seem as if reality is the world depicted in her work, even after I have stopped looking. At some point in my experience of her work, I rediscover an ability to genuinely affirm life. Time stops when I experience her paintings. All the workings of the human condition reveal themselves through her work. The myriad aspects of human history and life on this planet are condensed and translated through an expression of her body. Ozawa’s stance towards making is an expression of her own worldview, an expression of her reality which prioritizes the right balance of information. The world of her work is not a product of creation, but rather exists within her reality. Precisely because it is reality it must be conveyed as carefully as possible. 

 Ozawa’s work abstracts and expresses the various aspects of human existence throughout time alongside her own experience of human life. Admiring her work, describing it and discussing it, recognizing that reality is a collection of facts, all are ways of participating in the world on a larger scale. There is a gap between truth and reality. She observes the world without perceiving truth as reality. Experiencing this view of the world makes one aware of the present moment as one’s own understandings are condensed. As we come into contact with another worldview (i.e. hers), we are able to experience truths different from our own. Ultimately what she offers is an expanded view of the world. Her reality is one where non-human beings exist.

 When a being which is aware of truth attempts to express that through one means or another, the truth begins to function as a phenomenon. There is an object to whom one is speaking, and when truth functions as phenomenon, as when other people view Ozawa’s work and experience the phenomenon she depicts, that phenomenon becomes reality for the other and can change the world of the viewer. It is a broader world which until that moment did not exist in the consciousness of the viewer who is now able to recognize it. Reality, then, is not an accumulation of one’s own truths. It is not about readily accepting truths as reality. It is about layering imagination onto the truth, creating space, and living in the real world. This is the one thing which humans have done throughout history, but also what we have been losing. I feel that this is something which must not be lost. Reality is not truth. Reality is made. Chosen. Looking at Ozawa’s work gives me the courage to think this way.

 The white figures and faceless beings seem like mischievous children, spirits staring at humans, which exist in our reality. I’ll try starting from here. An era when myths and stories were a part of daily life and were used to describe the human condition. The beings in her work can be thought of as our lives and even as our own selves. Ozawa often says, “When I was a child and would become immersed in something my body disappeared. I became only a pair of eyes, I became the world itself. This is something that I couldn’t really get other people to understand. As I got older, this sensation faded, and is what I’m trying to give form to through my work.” Behind these words I perceive a love of life and fundamental thankfulness for the existence of her world. For this reason when I look at her work I experience a moment of peace and comfort like the fleeting instant the corner of one’s mouth turns upward.

 Directly ahead of existence is certain solitude, especially when considering the scale of the Earth and outer space. Ozawa’s work has an affection for the strangeness of each of our individual existences. This existence is the other self of my spirit, as well as the selves of all humans past and present. At the start I mentioned that her work seemed like something made by people from the future, or by a person who created humans. This is that quality to which I am referring.

 Ozawa says that when a good idea occurs to her or when she creates a good line or a perfect shape it is like the appearance of a small spirit. The sensation of the arrival of a spirit is difficult to translate into words. But isn’t what she’s finding the countless number of her selves scattered throughout the world? Perhaps what she calls a “small spirits” are those parts of herself which exist in order for her to comfortably inhabit the real world. This is what I thought when I heard her words. Innumerable and omnipresent, these sensations are so close that they are difficult to recognize. But when properly perceived, she experiences them as spirits. As we experience her work within which she vividly exists, the small spirits inhabit each of us as well.

 In a casual conversation she remarked, “I’d like to one day be able to erase from myself the little characters that appear in my work. I want to keep painting until I don’t need them anymore.” Given a reality where these small spirits within her are no longer necessary, a reality where those beings seep into her cells and are no longer needed, I wonder what she will paint next. What comes after this exhibition? I am already excited to experience the reality she will depict next.

 I would like to conclude with a poem that closely mirrors the sensation of looking at Ozawa’s work. I hope that a small part of the charm that runs through her work is conveyed in this poem. Thank you for allowing an outsider to painting and the art world the opportunity to write about it.

 Takaomi Kuze,  poet and director

(*1) Artifacts from ancient ruins around the world. Starting with Japan, Jomon era items such as hollow clay figurines from Hokkaido, Gassho figures from Aomori and the Jomon goddess from Yamagata, the Kaya masked goddess in Nagano and other related national treasure figurines. Outside of Japan one can point to Russian and sigil images, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec idols and masks, the stone figures at the Göbekli Tepe ruins in Turkey, the double-headed Ayn Gazal statues of Jordan, and the moai of Easter Island.


【小澤香奈子の作品世界について】 久世孝臣(詩人/演出家)






 人間が持つ業をおかしみとして描くということは、存在が存在することを認めて許容して肯定することだと思います。 例えば落語をみて「しようがないねぇ」と自己を省みつつ笑うように。


 ところで、他の動物の考えていることが分からないので一方的な意見になるかもしれませんが、僕は、人間が思いついたすべてのことは人間にとってしか意味がないことなのではないか?と思うことがあります。 例えば時間という概念や重力という概念を発見して、世の理を人類が少しづつ理解して、進歩してきたつもりでも、創造主でもない限り、本当のことは分かりません。もしかしたら、人間が正しいと信じて常識とされているそんな法則とは全く別の法則でもってこの世界は動いているかもしれないし、そうでもないかもしれません。 あらゆる意味で何が本当かほとんど何もわからない不確かな世界で生きているのが今の我々だと思うのです。






 絶対的な「自分」という価値判断基準において生きることに意味はあるでしょう。では、相対的に人間を俯瞰してみたときにはどうでしょうか。目の前には生という限定された空間が広がっていて、その空間に居る限り、自分の生を何で埋め尽くしても構わないというシンプルな事実。 だとすると、生きることにあるのは意味ではなく、ただ、行為のみ。であれば、「生きること」には意味がなく「生きていることが意味そのもの」で、我々一人ひとりが「意味」だという気がします。

 小澤氏の作品は、ただ「在る」ことが意味であり、在るだけで存在は存在することを許されていて、存在は存在することを「本質的に楽しんでいる」ことを伝えようとしている気がします。 意味のないこと、つまり生きることに真剣に取り組むほど、生きることや生の意味の不在が際立ち、それが存在の存在を際立たせる。意味のないことに真剣に取り組むと存在が際立つということは、存在は存在すること自体を楽しんでいるように思えるのです。

その一瞬を切り取ると残酷で救いがないと思える世界も俯瞰した視点で見ると、「在るもの」は「在ること」を喜び、「生」は「生」を肯定している。 彼女の作品にある、顔を出さず袋に包まれた存在達の無邪気に見える営みは我々の日常に潜んだ業、おかしみを、俯瞰した慈しみをもって綴られているように思えてなりません。「人間は人間にしかなれないし、人間は人間に出来ることしかできない、そして、人間に出来ることをしてしまうのが人間だ」と。




 例えば縄文人が、子が生まれた時、足形や手形を記念に取って土器として焼いていた、そういう意識や気持ちに近いものが彼女の作品の中にある気がします。 大げさなものをつくるわけではなく、すごく心の温度が残った理解可能で普通なものを創るという感覚が。






 つまり個々の存在が持つ環世界(その存在特有の知覚世界)を伝えるということで、環世界は、個々の存在ごとに異なっています。 抽象化して描写された現実は、それを抽象化して描写した存在以外にとっては現実ではない。日頃触れている現実は基本的に他者とのやりとりによって成立しているので、他者の環世界に触れ、自己の事実の集積ではない現実にいくつも触れていることになります。



 小澤氏の創作のスタンスは自身の環世界を伝えること、彼女にとっての現実を過不足なく伝えることをとても大事にしているように思います。 あの作品の世界は、創造の産物ではなく彼女の中では現実に存在している。現実だからこそ伝わるように出来るだけ丁寧に描こう。というように。





 あの白い存在たちや顔の見えないフォルムの存在。 いたずらを仕掛ける子どもたちのようでもあり、人間を見つめる精霊のようでもある存在たちは、私たちの現実に存在している。ここから始めてみる。 神話や物語が生活の中にあって、人の心がそれで回収されていた時代のように。そうするとあの作品の存在たちが自分たちの生活や自分そのものにも思えてきます。



 この言葉からも僕は、彼女の思考の奥底には、自分が存在している世界への根源的な感謝と生への愛情を感じるのです。 だから、彼女の作品を見ると、安心して、ほっこりと、口の端がゆがむような瞬間が僕にあるのでしょう。 存在することのすぐ先にある絶対的な孤独、それを地球の規模で考えたら、宇宙の規模で考えたら、彼女の作品は、慈しみをもって、おかしみがある我々の存在一つ一つに寄り添ってくれている。あれは僕の魂の分身でもあり、現在過去未来全ての人間の分身でもあるように思えます。






 彼女はふとした会話の中で「この作品に出てくる子たちをいつか自分の中で消せたらいい。自分にこの子たちが必要なくなるまで描きたい」と言いました。 彼女の中で小さい神様が必要なくなるくらい現実の世界を許せたとしたら、あの存在たちが彼女の細胞にまで浸透し、あの存在たちを意識する必要がなくなったら、次に彼女は何を描くのか。今回の展示の先に何があるのか、彼女が描くこれからの現実を僕はとても楽しみにしています。


               2020年 2月9日 詩人・演出家 久世 孝臣


    河井寛次郎 (「民藝」昭和三十八年十二月号)


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