The Sea of Buddha series, conceived in 1988 and first realised in 1995, explores Hiroshi Sugimoto’s overarching interest in light, history and time – which the artist refers to as “one of the most abstract concepts human beings have created.” New York’s Pace Gallery will present a selection of 36 photographs from the series, which are accompanied by a related film work.
The black-and-white images that make up Sea of Buddha (48 in total) all make use of the same formal language of precise compositional balance and size to achieve an apparent uniformity between each photograph. Five works from Sugimoto’s Seascapes series (1980–), in which the horizon divides sea and sky in varying locations and atmospheric conditions, will also be included in the New York show.
Sugimoto (who was born in Tokyo in 1948) deviated from his usual process of continuously working on and expanding a series over years or decades for this sequence, instead finalising a closed set of images over the course of ten days. The subject of the series is the thousand statues installed in Kyoto’s Sanjῡsangen-dō, or Hall of Thirty-Three Bays, a temple dating from 1266 AD. Through visual repetition, Sugimoto refers to the religious and historical concepts that guided the original creation of the statues. Simulating the reproductions of the one-thousand-armed bodhisattva of compassion known as Senju Kannon, Sugimoto’s images signify the Buddhist practice of replicating manifestations of a deity in order to achieve spiritual merit. The compositional structure of the photographs and the effects of light creating the impression of a limitless expanse – or sea – of figures in space.
The themes of the series are complemented by Accelerated Buddha (1997) – the artist’s first video work – which expands his investigations of time. In this three-channel video, presents a progression of images that transition into one another with increasing speed, confronting the perceptual experience of time.
Aside from his photographic series, Sugimoto’s work extends across a diverse array of subject matter, including museum dioramas, wax portraits, architecture and light. Over the course of his career, he has developed a conceptual and philosophical approach to photography, engaging with the medium as a means to preserve memory and record the passage of time.
Hiroshi Sugimoto: Sea of Buddha, 5 February to 5 March, Pace Gallery, 510 West 25th Street, New York.
For more, visit www.pacegallery.com/newyork.
Follow us on Twitter @AestheticaMag for the latest news in contemporary art and culture.
1. Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sea of Buddha, 1997. Photo courtesy of the artist’s studio.