04/ You Should Draw This - Origins of Things

You Must not Be Confused by What You See.

One a Monday in September, 1982. The glass float was placed on the motif stand. It was the motif of the week for drawing. The glass float was what you see usually in the sea, yet when facing it in a room of a building in the city it actually looked quite big. …If you take a closer look at this glassy ‘float’, you find it is rather beautiful holding the rich green colour which reminds you of the deep sea. The surface was shone brightly by the fluorescent lamp. The sturdy ropes were knotted together and were bleached greyish white by the sea water. They contrast well with the floating part.

The research students of N Institute of Arts stood in front of the glass float…some were confused while others looked confident facing their drawing board. I was one of the students and was wiping off the shape of the fluorescent lamp on the surface of the glass using kneaded rubber, and followed the details of the ropes by a pencil…

It was Saturday. We always had a review meeting at N Institute of Arts on Saturdays putting on our works of the week onto the wall. That day, we had drawings of the glass float. In front of them there was that float on the motif stand. The meeting has started. Mr. S began to talk while tapping the floor with his long wooden pointing rod.

‘Well, I think you are now seeing many things’

He stroked the surface of the float using his rod.


And then he tapped the surface of the float saying

‘There is so much wow! there, isn’t there?!’

He often used unique kinds of words like ‘wa!’ ‘gu!’ ‘fu!’ to express something he could not express with usual words. It usually happens when he expresses something terrific, horrendous and strong. He continued the question…

‘You should express that’

The students including me dwelled in silence on what we just heard. I understood what he meant. Presumably he was saying that we should not stick to the details, but more than that we should express the heaviness, hardness and volume of the glass float. But how…?

To Draw is to Re-capture How We Look at Things.

There is an idea that there is something which constitute the essence of a thing, sometimes it is sinking in the depth of it. What make the thing ‘the thing’ are all around it just like the signs. It is possible to catch those signs by senses but we cannot capture the very thing of ‘the thing’ just by our senses.

What Mr. S has just told us seemed to be telling us to ‘capture and draw the very thing of what we see’. If so, this was incredibly a difficult task. We cannot capture the very thing of the thing by our senses.How can we get closer to it without the visual sense as ‘we can see’? If the signs we see- the brightness of the glassy float and the roughness of the ropes- are the false images, which clues can we use to draw the very thing?

Like other places, N Institute of Arts had reference works which were to be excellent drawn by past students.

‘I don’t mean that you should all copy this.’

Making sure of this, he put the reference work of the glass float on the wall. We were stunned. There was a pitch-black lump surrounded by the pure white air. But as we look at it carefully, it is a glass float and the ropes and the highlight of fluorescent lamp are drawn properly. However, it was designed in such a way that the tone gradually faded from the centre to the edges, so that the calming air seemed to pass slowly across the paper. ‘This is how it was done…’ What I had been unable to see before suddenly became so clear. Now it was difficult not to see the very thing.

More surprisingly, what was true to me before was what I was looking at right in front of my eyes, but after seeing the reference work, only what we see through it seemed to be the real thing.

Yes, what the senses had gathered could only form an image before me in the light of true understanding.

Though, Thing in Itself is Not a Conglomeration of Ways of Looking at Things

To analyse what Mr. S was saying, it would look like this,

‘You should draw this. You can use what you see but you should not be deluded by them. You should draw what you cannot see.’

It was a difficult experience ‘not to be deluded’ and to always be conscious of ‘what we cannot see’. The fact is that if something appeals to our senses in the first place it means that it is attractive. Without trusting in those senses, and one sets his sights on the ‘invisible’ whose existence could only be predicted by understanding, and waited patiently for it to rise up on the screen... As a young person as I was, it was an ascetic work. I was to dream. This was only a ‘preparation for the entrance exams’, and when it is all done I am going express what is inside me freely not just something to do with the ‘thing’…

Yet when it was all done, I realised that there really were not a lot inside me. On the contrary, the idea of ‘self’ was uncertain. And for the act of ‘I’ to ‘imagine’ can only be supported by cooperating with what come from outside (senses). And after all, I started to think I could only make art works through the association with ‘things’.

However, as I face the ‘things’ I realise again that there are a lot of ‘the way of looking at things’ attached to the things. What I mentioned earlier, the heaviness, hardness and roughness are one kind of views towards the glass float and not the ‘float itself’. ‘The thing in itself’…Is there such thing?...I couldn’t believe in it for a long time.

Or maybe there is. These days I occasionally get the sensation, though only a glimpse, that I have caught ‘the invisible’ out of the corner of my eyes. This may be an illusion. But… for example I cycle to the station every morning… see the river Hikiji nearby… on one occasion in the morning dew the water looks as someone had turned the paint box over the surface…on other occasions under cloudy weather, it seems as someone had thrown a dark ink into the water… seeing the same scenery again and again I occasionally get the sensation that I think ‘Oh!’… it happens often…things have parts that are hidden and we cannot see…I think this is certain.

I think I hear the voice of Mr. S. He points the surface of the Hikiji and cherry trees on the bank by his pointing rod saying…

‘You should draw this. You can use what you can see and what you cannot see. However, don’t be deluded by what you have seen. You must draw what it is seen as it is now.’