[SOLD OUT] Hiroshi Sugimoto: On Photography and Japanese ArtVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of Japan's most important contemporary artists, will join Asia Society Museum Director Yasufumi Nakamori for a conversation exploring Sugimoto's photography, his current exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, and the impact of historical Japanese arts, such as tea culture and calligraphy, on his current artistic practice.
Sugimoto will discuss his new work, Brush Impression, unpacking how the pandemic has influenced his signature artistic approach: calligraphic brushstrokes on photographic paper in a dark room setting.
On Brush Impression
Sugimoto discusses the process and themes surrounding Brush Impression in his artist statement:
When I finally returned to my New York studio after the three-year-long disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, I discovered that I was in possession of a large amount of photographic paper which had passed its expiry date. Rather like fresh food, this special paper for photographic printing deteriorates over time. The defining feature of my prints is the subtle expression of different shades, something that is very hard to achieve with photographic paper that is even slightly degraded. What I therefore did was to flip my thinking, Copernicus-style. My idea was not to accept deterioration as deterioration per se but to treat it as a form of beautification instead. When ancient works of art are exposed to the operations of time, deterioration usually causes an aesthetic improvement. The white of photographic paper looks rather like albumenized paper, while black tones acquire a certain softness on it. I decided to bring the calligraphy skills I had mastered during three years of enforced leisure into the dark room. In the dim room suffused with pale orange light, I spread out a sheet of photographic paper then dunk my brush into the developer. In the darkness, I gropingly draw the characters which I cannot actually see. Then, just for a fleeting moment, I expose the paper to a burst of light like a flash. Just the areas which are touched by the brush metamorphose into Japanese characters and float to the surface in black.
Having shown that it was possible to do calligraphy using a developer, I then tried dipping my brush in photographic fixer. I plied my bush surrounded by the stench of acid; this time it was white characters appearing on a jet-black ground. As I wrote, I tried to concentrate on the invisible characters, focusing my mind on the place where the meaning of the characters would manifest itself.
Protean and shapeshifting, fire is an extraordinary thing. Gaze at it and you will feel yourself being drawn into another world. This planet of ours was originally born from the fires of the sun. A blazing flame is at once a sacrament of birth and an echo of a burned-out death. Sometimes, as here, the burning flame flings out its arms and legs to be transcribed as the kanji character for fire.
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