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November 13, 2021


A painter who always loved the land and sea...

In Kazuharu Hanada’s words, “Paintings composed with a theme of relations between emotion and recognition, utilizing geometric lines and shapes.”

In 1965 he entered the Oil Painting Department of the Tokyo University of the Arts, and began his academic activities in Tokyo. As a postgraduate student he pursued art further in a class taught by Ryohei Koiso, and observing his work from that time it is clear that he was experimenting in various forms of modern art. From pre-war styles such as Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism, to post-war abstract expressionism.

After completing his postgraduate studies in 1972 Hanada traveled to Europe, and upon his return in 1974 moved back to his hometown in Sapporo, Hokkaido. After going back home, Hanada who had tried geometric paintings since he was in school, worked on paintings with bright surfaces composed of squares. After a while, he created an expression in which nature in Hokkaido and his daily life are picked up as theme and their essence was abstracted into simple forms. While he was influenced by the tide such as the postwar abstract expressionism or hard edge, he had a great interest in Rinpa school, Heihachiro Fukuda (1892-1974), a painter of the Kyoto art circles, and so on. His expression, supported by poetic sensibility grasping familiar phenomena with rich lyricism and clear visual effect, stands out filled with unusual sense of refreshing and originality among the numerous abstract paintings drawn after the war in Japan. He continued his art works in Hokkaido until his death in 2017.


Composed of geometric lines and figures, the artist brings not only rich lyricism and clear visual effect, but also the refreshing scenery of Hokkaido, the birthplace of Hanada.
Moving back to his hometown in Sapporo in 1974, Hanada began a period that marks his inner exploration to paint his universe. Hokkaido is surrounded by the magnificent sceneries involving the sky, sea, and memories which serves as a guide into the world of Kazuharu Hanada.
Hanada’s works show the process of approach establishment on abstract scenery painting. He starts later in life by using the constructs of straight lines, inclusion of curves, and depictions. In the following years, he arrived at his own style of painting that combines figurations and abstractions of simplistic geometric shapes and vibrant colors on the theme of nature and his daily life.

It doesn't matter if it's in the woods or on a tree-lined street. When you pass by a tree, you feel refreshed in a way you don't when you pass by buildings or people. When you pass by a tree, you feel a freshness that you don't feel when you pass by buildings or people, when you feel the fullness of the tree, its branches and roots, and you feel your own sense of life welling up. Whether I am sketching a line or painting a color, I want to bring the same sense of fulfillment and life to the painting that I feel when I walk by a tree. That is how I create my paintings.

- Hanada

Hokkaido University's Second Farm

1961, Oil on canvas, 37.0 x 45.0cm

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Row of poplar trees

1961-1964, Oil on canvas, 72.6 x 60.5cm

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1969, Oil on canvas, 91.0 x 65.5cm

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1969, Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 91.5cm

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1969, Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 73.0cm

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1961-1964, Oil on canvas, 53.0 x 41.0cm

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After returning to his hometown of Sapporo in 1974, Hanada experimented with figurative painting and began working on dividing brightly colored surfaces. The influence of post-war American artists such as Barnett Newman (1905-1970) can be seen in Hanada’s work.

Socks I

1974, Oil on canvas, 163.0 x 98.0cm

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1975, Oil on canvas, 193.9 x 81.0cm

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1980, Copper plate stainless steel aluminum, 46.0 x 138.5cm

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Sea and hills

1989, Oil on canvas, 105.0 x 256.0cm

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Hanada’s landscapes have progressed over time are simplified, yet the unique shapes and colors are full of poetry, creating a dream world that at the same time communicates the artist's love for the nature of Hokkaido effectively. In this period, he produced many simple yet dynamic paintings, including wonderful large-scale pieces, such as Sea and Hill (1989) and Open Fields (1992).

Open fields

1992, Oil on canvas, 130.3 x 486.3cm

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Landscapes (Roads)

1983, Oil on canvas, 163.1 x 130.3cm

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1985, Oil on canvas, 40.9 x 31.8cm

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Sending spring

1996, Oil on canvas, 90.9 x 72.7cm

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1997, Oil on canvas, 33.5 x 24.5cm

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Following on from these landscapes, in the early 1990s a series of portraits such as Scolded (1991) and Twenty (1991) was produced.

The models that he chose were people close to him, such as his daughters. His approach is figurative, but the forms are abbreviated and the colours vivid, developing tidy, icon-like images of the subjects.

In addition, the techniques are not only those of oil painting but also incorporate approaches like charcoal and conté. However, what shows throughout the series is his love and respect towards the models, making the works small but excellent pieces that hold a certain sense of presence.


1991, Oil on canvas, 40.9 x 31.8cm

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1991, Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 37.9cm

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From the late 1990s to the mid 2000s, Hanada's work reached its zenith and edged towards completion. The view (left image): “Snow Road (1992, 1998, 2000)” is like tracing back to his early painting Row of Poplar Trees (1961-1964). Hanada began new work based on squares and rectangles. The colours and sizes of shapes in “Sea and Rocks (1999)” (right image) are more varied than in the early pieces, giving them a brighter surface and reminding viewers once again that Hanada's work is, at root, but fun.

Snow Road

1992,1998, 2000, Oil on canvas, 100.0 x 65.1cm

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Sea and Rocks

1999, Oil on canvas, 112.1 x 145.5cm

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Mother's Train

2005, Oil on canvas, 130.3 x 162.1cm

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He further developed natural motifs from his existent work and, extending into a new field, introduced a world of fantasy, full of poetry.

“Mother's Train (2005)” (left image) has shown the natural beauty of the oceans and mountains of his beloved native land, Hokkaido.

The various shapes and colours drawn from undefined elements are full of creativity, conveying a powerful sense of humour and poetry. There are many pieces that elicit fun and happiness in their viewers.

Winter Night

2005, Oil on canvas, 33.5 x 24.5cm

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Cherry blossom

2009, Oil on canvas, 34.0 x 24.5cm

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Kazuharu Hanada (1946-2017) was one of Hokkaido’s representative abstract painters. Born in Sapporo in 1946, he enrolled in the Department of Oil Painting at Tokyo University of the Arts in 1965. After graduating from graduate school, he returned to Sapporo in 1974, and had since been active as a principal member of the avant-garde movement in Hokkaido. Without joining any public associations, he displayed his work mainly in solo and group exhibitions until his death in 2017. His style was abstraction composed of nearly consistently clear-cut planes of color, reminiscent of the hard-edge paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and others. From the mid-1980s in particular, Hanada developed a unique abstract world that gives feelings of friendliness and humor.



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