The first European exhibition of the latest works by Hiroshi Sugimoto opened yesterday, 04 Aug 11, at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (Modern 2).
As a prologue to the exhibition opening, the artist gave a talk. The lecture theatre was full, not an empty chair to be grabbed.
Sugimoto talked about his work and underlying philosophy. Seascapes are his signature photographs, in black and white translating into a wide range of grays. I loved them, as well as the almost black pine-tree landscapes embracing the spirit of death. He showed pictures of the Izu Photo Museum he designed – ‘easy to use’, as he said, with regards to lighting and, consequently, viewing experience. The museum’s collection includes pieces of jade from XIII-XV century amongst which, Sugimoto declares, he put two fake ones – to ‘check the quality of the curator’.
Another one of his architectural projects is a Shinto shrine in Japan. There are steps made from optical glass leading from the shrine to an underground chamber, the lower part of them covered by a 24-ton piece of stone. Only light can travel from ‘over’ to ‘under’ by the steps. The chamber can be entered by visitors from the other end, through a 50 cm wide passage. Walking out you see the sea and a straight line of horizon. To me this whole concept is a strangely emotion-arousing combination, minimalistic and romantic. It needs to be admired.
Sugimoto is not just a photographer – he is a sculptor, architect, philosopher; he also restores pieces of art. (He is also friends with Bono.) His talk was bestudded with humour, e.g. slides abruptly changing from photography to architecture to sculpture were usually commented with calm words ‘All of a sudden this is a different sight’. The talk was exatcly 1 hour long.
The artist’s latest proposal is a 100-metre long single line swimming pool going over a little island, its direction aligned with the equator. It is meant to be an extension to the Shinto shrine. Sagimoto admitted, however: ‘I haven’t got approval, yet.’
He was signing his albums after the talk. Sadly, I was not able to afford to buy an album, as the cheapest were being sold at £45. a piece.