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On Patagraphy (2019)

Outside us, mutual externality without succession; within us, succession without mutual externality.1

When I saw the space at Heathcote Museum & Gallery, it inspired me to metaphorically create windows on the wall to let the light outside into the room inside through a series of paintings. Once created, it would symbolically resonate with my idea of the interaction between the mind’s internal consciousness and the external world; the outside borrows succession from the inside and the inside borrows distinction from the outside.2 This initial concept of interactive movement resulted in what I have termed Patagraphy.

The idea of Patagraphy first came to me in 2016 when I was looking down at Cottesloe Beach from the footpath. My mind’s focus oscillated between the vista and my body. As I felt the wind on my skin I started to reflect on a time long since passed; a time in 2011 and although the ripples of the waves in the distance seemed so small, I had a distinct tactile feeling of just how massive they really were. My thoughts strangely shifted to the idea of ‘entropy’ that I had often vaguely wondered about in my studio while working. I had a sudden sense of the entropy in the ocean. These ideas were chronologically different and geographically separate, and appeared in my mind, as the philosopher Henri Bergson would put it; as ‘a qualitative multiplicity’ and ‘an absolute heterogeneity of elements.’ Yet they still managed to be seamlessly unified and interpenetrate each other in my mind, just like Bergson’s concept of a ‘duration.’3 I took photographs of the seascape, but knew they would fail to properly capture this duration.

Photographic images have changed people’s collective sense of reality by means of mechanical reproduction and widespread distribution and thus, have now become innate to social media. There is a strong affinity between them and our visions, however, despite this popular society-wide penetration, the photograph is often too ‘flat’ to represent the unique personality of the subject; to quote Susan Sontag’s essay, ‘A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence,’4 and what is missing in it is the duration that is existentially unrepeatable.5

Back in my studio, I recalled the movement of the ocean and how that made me feel. I thought that same movement and the feeling it invoked in me, could be captured in an acrylic medium in a way that my photograph couldn’t. I wondered if I could capture this kind of entropic movement in my painting by making and using a camera like apparatus, so I started assembling a squeegee device, which smoothly slides on rails. When used, it mechanically spreads acrylic paint on a canvas with even pressure, but it is not perfect and records the imperfections of my hands-on operation, like a wave pattern. That was two years ago.

For this exhibition, I combined a cutting plotter with a pneumatic dispenser and connected a needle to the plotter head. I did this by making the required parts with a 3D printer. The cutting plotter, now repurposed into a new painting plotter marks out points for paint and dispenses halftone image dots onto the canvas. The resulting image is a continuous reflection of the calibrated movement of the device and the unpredictable way the needle makes physical contact with the support.

I thought I needed to coin a name for my new device starting with the letter ‘P’, since it was a consequence of the idea of combining Painting, Printing, Plotting, Photography and Photogrammetry. Thus the word Patagraphy was born; a compound word consisting of Alfred Jarry’s Pataphysics (the imagined realm additional to metaphysics) and -graph (an instrument for recording). Pata also means ‘canvas’ in Sanskrit, and ‘foot’ in Spanish, which reminds me of the continuity of dots resembling a patting rhythm and the accumulation of footprints during a walk. Taking into account the rhythmically similar sounds and Latin etymology of the words ‘pattern,’ ‘material,’ ‘patrix’ and ‘matrix,’ I hope the name Patagraph positively invokes a sense of fusion between these ideas.
I practice Patagraphy.
My artwork is a Patagraph.

I am a Patagrapher.

Hiroshi Kobayashi

  1. Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will. p.228 [1889]. Translation by F. L. Pogson (The Macmillan Company, 1913) ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p.109, p.228 ↩︎
  3. Ibid., p.229 ↩︎
  4. Susan Sontag, On Photography, p.12 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977) ↩︎
  5. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, p.4 [1979] (Hill and Wang, 1981) ↩︎

Notes (2012-2018)

170102 12:38:36
THIIN GAS IS IN A PIT. 24 years ago in Brooklyn. I finally met a person* I had admired. It was 3 years before his death. It was also one of my purposes that I went to the graduate school in New York. I was fascinated with 50’s and 60’s American art rather than contemporary art in 90’s. He was a philosopher, poet and professor in Literature, and only once visited our studios. Since each student had just a couple of minutes to show their works, I made poems written on 9 canvases instead of paintings. He saw them, seemingly baffled and questioned me ‘What are you doing here?’. Then he picked up one poem and said ‘Is this Ku (emptiness)?’ I had never associated my work to Zen, but was pleased since that was my favorite one too. All 9 poems were anagrams of THIS IS A PAINTING, and I forgot other 8 ones. The best part of this poem must be THIN which is something I have been looking for since then through my work.
*Allen Ginsberg

130521 21:15:57
CORRECTICAL POLIT(E)NESS. Understanding and expression are two different things, and so are thinking about POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and engaging with politics. I noticed these nearly parallel layers embedded in our, so-called, ordinal life after I have experienced 3.11 earthquake and subsequent 3.12 FNPP accident in 2011 in Japan. In the catastrophic situation, the power reveals double-sided foundation that looks seamlessly unified on the surface of routine activities. Once the maneuver deployed, administrative decisions disguise as scientific facts, and intentionally confuse physical evidence and human emotion through manipulated information. The politics develops within a deeper psychological level like ‘inception’ of ideas, trying even to correct people’s politeness, and consequently change the social climate as they desired. But it is also an epistemological stratum that psychoanalysis and art could cope with, approach and affect, not directly but indirectly, and metaphorically.

121105 13:28:34
AURIC SLAM. Painting is not a pure fiction but also a SIMULACRUM. Painting is a fiction but has a substantial base structure that Simulacra have as Capitalistic ‘signes’. It goes beyond the space-time like language but is not anonymous; it has identity and specificity simultaneously. However, it is only recently that paintings, as objects, have entered a part of Simulacra. Rather, the inherent polysemy of painting was ‘auric slam’ to human intelligence and had precursed the simulacra.

171217 08:34:56
DAY REMADE. READYMADE must once disappear and reappear. Replica is a resurrection. The day must be remade, and there the delay is. It is an extension of paint layers into space and time, and has a closer generic structure with Fauvism and Cubism paintings than Simulationism. The retinal means one’s attitude that recognises everything as readymade without disappearance, and it is based partly upon the illusional faith (mirage) toward photographic documentation and its productivity. The delay comes out of the idea of immortality and mortality of things and bodies. The reminiscence of those thoughts and substances vacillate between past and future, but as a result, yet reside in the present. Forget about readymade. Think infra-thin.

180121 16:17:23
FELL EXIST VERIFY. When one objectifies even the theoretical demand that is “Be the SELF REFLEXIVITY a base structure of thought,” the time and process for making objects were problematized and foregrounded more than end-products. It was deducted out of paintings as objects, and developed from the idea of democratization. Then ‘the presentness’ in painting loosened in the sheer experience of space, and literally fell flat. But it still exists. Verify ‘durée’ in painting.

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