Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ‘Seascapes’ fascinate, puzzle, surprise and, finally, encourage further examination. I came across a major show by Sugimoto at Marian Goodman Gallery that celebrated 40 years last year. What appears at first sight to be very similar images of nothing more than a horizon with the upper half of the image occupied by sky and the lower by the sea, in fact open up a whole world of diversity and incredible detail. Photographed in black and white over the course of many years (the series was started in 1980) using a large format camera, these images communicate subtle changes in mood, atmospheric conditions and times of the day, inviting for quiet and meditative contemplation leading to meditation.
The technique of documenting the same or similar objects under different light conditions is not new, Claude Monet created several well known series using these principles, inspired by the Gothic facade of Rouen cathedral, the haystacks, the poplars, cliffs in Normandy, or the lilies in his garden. Every single painting of those series presented yet another fleeting moment, a particular tone of light falling on the haystack, a cloudy day or a bright sunshine, very early morning or the last ray of evening light. Kandinsky famously said that it was indeed Claude Monet’s haystack that impressed him so much that he decided to become an artist. So one should not underestimate the importance of haystacks, but here I digress.
Sugimoto uses a horizon as a metaphore, a line where two fundamental spheres join but at the same time a line, where they separate. The complexity of textures, reflected light, the blur created by extra-long exposures (they could take up to several hours) form new patterns, creating meanings that have previously been unknown. The viewer cannot help but admire the diversity of the patterns, think of the past and the future, divided by the horizon of the present, transcend the everyday and feel what the artist no doubt wanted us to feel.
I have been inspired by Sugimoto’s work and the references to the original idea by Monet to document same objects in changing light during a recent photoshoot in Austrian alps. Seeing the glorious mountain peaks at different times of the day with changing quality of light has been my goal. I was particularly interested in recording ‘Alpenglow’ a rare phenomenon that appears when the first or the last rays of sunshine hit the very top of the mountain. You are most welcome to see the results on my website: http://stanislav.photography/portfolio/alpenglow-hommage-monet
The video interview with Hiroshi Sugimoto recorded by Christie’s could help understand the thinking behind the artist’s work: Hiroshi Sugimoto
His album ‘Seascapes’ has been published in 2015 by Damiani. It will no doubt go out of print very fast.
Sugimoto, H. (2015) Seascapes, Damiani, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hiroshi-Sugimoto-Seascapes/dp/8862084161/