Hiroshi Sugimoto focuses his camera on the intangible aspects of nature and culture: from images of glowing theatre screens to seascapes of the day and night. Each series is without human presence, shot in black-and-white – illustrating a variable range of delicate tones – and characterised by an overall quietude and equanimity. Like Bernd and Hilla Becher and other photographers working in the documentary style, Sugimoto reveals what he sees, but his typological practice, influenced by the serial repetition of 1970s conceptualism, is motivated by more subjective considerations, as is evident in his choice of subject.
In producing the seascapes Sugimoto ventured to many parts of the world. Although the titles are of a particular place, each image appears the same, divided by a horizon line where water and sky meet. Nonetheless the long exposures of each image provide finite detail, and the similar format a space for comparison and contemplation. The variation between each print is in atmosphere and texture, in the gradations of light perceived during the day and at night, and in the corresponding tones of the skies and clouds and reflections of the sea. Sugimoto has said that images of water are ‘an early example of a human naming something outside the world inside himself’.1 Such comments reveal the artist’s motivations to give material form to spiritual pursuits. He chose the sea as a subject because it is a constant universal element capable of bridging the past and present, and able to connote tranquillity: ‘Although the land is forever changing its form, the sea, I thought, is immutable. Thus began my travels back through time to the ancient seas of the world’.2
1. Brady Tesner L 2000, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: seascapes, nightscapes, hall of thirty-three bays’, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, Oregon p 4
2. Brougher K & Elliot D 2005, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto’, Hatje Cantz/Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC/Mori Art Museum, Tokyo p 109
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph
42.3 x 64.2 cm image; 47.4 x 70.3 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed l.r.corner mount., pencil "Hiroshi Sugimoto". Dated l.centre mount., blind embossed "...1997".
© Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Pace Gallery
Referenced in 7 publications
Norman Bryson, Parkett, `Hiroshi Sugimoto's Metabolic Photography', pg 120-23, Zurich, May 1996. There is no direct reference to the art work in AGNSW collection.
Natasha Bullock, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - place', pg.288-311, Sydney, 2007, 306 (illus.).
Daniel Cole, Photofile 49, `Hiroshi Sugimoto/ Stephanie Valentin', pg 47, Sydney, Nov 1996, 47. There is no direct reference to this art work. This article expresses sentiments of time and light, which is not unlike the ideas behind the works AGNSW has purchased.
Michel Guerrin, Atelier, `Hiroshi Sugimoto', pg 60-62, Shinjuku-ku, Mar 1996, 60-62. No direct reference to the works purchased by AGNSW.
Jane Somerville, Look, 'The familiar made strange', Sydney, May 2007, 20.
Artforum, `Hiroshi Sugimoto: no such thing as time.'by John Yau, pg 48-52, New Jersey, 1984, 48-52. No direct reference to the art works purchased by AGNSW.
The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Photography', Sydney, 2003, 295 (colour illus.).