Aligned on the gallery walls, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs lure and startle, perhaps due to their unusual settings or the strange feelings they conjure.
Japanese artist Sugimoto has been taking photographs of still life compositions where the subject matters appear alive. Animals, sculptures, nature, wax mannequins, lighting and theatres are the centrepieces of his eerie productions.
In 1978, Sugimoto captured thousands of moving images on a single frame of film using a long exposure, engendering Theatre Series.
Very often, his locations of choice are old movie palaces and drive-ins where the artist renders his vision in the form of humble photographs, conveying his core values, thoughts and consciousness. For Snow White, the current exhibition at Marian Goodman, originals are displayed adjacent more recent pieces, processed using the same method to seize an identical synergy of feelings and energies.
Sugimoto confesses wanting to ‘photograph a movie’ which is exactly what he did and as a result, an intense blinding light emanates from the screens, illuminating the entire frame.
Nevertheless, his thought process and artistic creation do not end here, he borrows images and reality through the medium of photography, forcing the release of hidden emotions the same way a painter uses a canvas and a subject matter to disclose a mystery world.
Without screens, the Teatro all’Antica and Teatro Olimpico dating from the 16th century Italy are part of Sugimoto’s most recent takes for the series. He returned to the source; the oldest theatres once the origin of a number of modern (day – theatres’) inspirations.
Other photographs depict derelict theatres. Their vestiges add nostalgia to the chronic manifestation of the screen. Sugimoto is an architect who clearly establishes the rigor of perspective and symmetry but is also immensely drawn into Duchamp and surrealism. This perhaps explains the inexorable desire to mould strangeness in an almost too perfect representation of reality, unleashing the subconscious mind to wonder the photographs.
The redundancy of the images creates an uncanny feeling in the stripped-down environment of the gallery; one of being surrounded by a beautiful decorum infused with hollowness. Time, life and death are indeed some of Sugimoto’s early preoccupations.
As I am staring at an empty theatre, with the impression that I am a part of it, seated, and as I understand that the movie has been rolling from start to end, a spark of panic ignites. The realisation that loneliness was a part of my journey and that I was not even fully aware of it, aches.
This is a seemingly over personal interpretation, but isn’t this the very intention?
While a location such as a cinema or a theatre is expected to be filled with human beings, is however exposed intentionally empty, in vulnerable black and white tones, the sensations which emerge are introspective and reopen forgotten wounds.
Snow White: Hiroshi Sugimoto at Marian Goodman Gallery, London (26 October – 22 December 2017)