When the koto – a stringed musical instrument - was introduced to Japan from China (hundreds of years ago), it was immediately embraced by Buddhist monks. They were not especially musically inclined, however. They realized that mastering the koto took immense self-awareness and self-discipline and that learning this instrument would have a beneficial training effect – mastering the koto would mean the greater development of the types of skills they sought for their type of ascetic yet worldly-engaged lifestyle. Looking at the work of Peter Dreher at Koenig and Clinton, my first thought was that his daily effort to paint the same empty glass, day in and day out, follows in this type of tradition. He has been painting the same glass every day for nigh 40 years now. Usually artists paint to represent something or they paint to express or demonstrate an inner state or situation. Dreher’s work seems to fit into another category completely.
I guess the significance of the work could be in the fact that just by the artist representing the same object every day, we, the viewers of the work, have to focus on what is NOT being conveyed. These individual glasses do not measure or record inner growth or development. They do not express the inner state of the artist at the time of the painting. If one really wants to be quite frank, one could say that, to the viewer, they just really record the continued existence of Peter Dreher. So in painting the same benign object every day, is Dreher trying to deliberately lose himself in a process totally disconnected from himself?
A video I found about the artist: