CM: Demosthenes Agrafiotis' first contact with Japan was in 1965, when he received some transparent discs with Japanese traditional music. Touched by the refined difference of Japan he set himself the task of acquainting himself with additional aspects of Japanese culture in the cinema, the 'No' and 'Buranku' theaters and 'Haiku' poetry. "This world is extremely useful to understand your own", he claims. In Paris since 1973, he wrote texts on the cultural history of Japan. As special advisor on matters of Japanese culture, Agrafiotis accompanied Melina Mercouri in 1986 when she met Prime Minister of Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone. In Japan, he realized the relationship between knowledge, imagination and material reality. It was a test of truth, because suddenly he saw the intellectual dimension of life in Japan.
Having spent a whole day in a shop in Tokyo with the largest collection of papers from the 16th century, he selected some 100 different pieces. They are made by hand by artists specializing in paper and some of them bear their signatures. They are created in a few villages that are isolated in the mountains, by families who have inherited the technique over the years from generation to generation. The cooperation of an entire family is required to create these papers. A crucial factor in their making is the quality of water, which oscillates on the limits of perfection. The texture of this paper is special because it is made of fibers. It is a kind of paper that is organically 'alive', as opposed to the chemical paper of the West. The ink in such case of paper does not remain on the surface but is absorbed in depth. Therefore, the painting on paper is the result of the pressure the brush exerts on the paper and the art of gesture. The significance of this practice lies in the fact that the work results from the tension and the accumulation of energy in the body of the paper. The painting is executed at one go and in a very short length of time. A sort of discharge and mental and physical energy takes place. The task either fails or succeeds. There can be no correction. This is the basic difference with the Western tradition, where the work - generated by revisiting it - has a built character. Creation in Japan is a empirical matter. Empirical knowledge translates to the tension the author experiences at the moment of creation. Through meditation the process and the result coincides.
Thus did Agrafiotis paint his Homage to Lafcadio Hearn. This artwork is at once a trace and an imprint. The paper reflects the Agrafiotis' impression of Japan. At the same time it confronts the viewer with the question of what is expressible or inexpressible, and what is representational or nonrepresentational. This work can gather and condense what a thousand pages relate about Japan. It is not something particular, but it appears to be more Japanese than Japan itself. Such fancy is required in order to transgress into the artwork. It is worth noting that the Homage to Lafcadio Hearn is not intended for permanent exhibition on the wall. In Japan the issue is not the exhibition of works, but the presentation of a particular work for a particular person at a particular time. The Japanese houses are minimally decorated. When a visit is expected various aspects are calculated that have to do with love, respect, admiration, thanks, and power. Therefore a space is constructed accordingly. This practice is called 'Kazari'. Thus, the appropriate work is unrolled and is placed on the wall. In the knowledge of Lafcadio's experience of Japan, Agrafiotis set himself the task to render a sense of Japan that is parallel with the present work. If Lafcadio were to visit his home today, Agrafiotis would present him with this artwork to receive him in keeping with the Japanese tradition.
[Megakles Rogakos 12/2009]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn 2009 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens