Artist Spotlight: Takihiro Sato

Tokihiro Sato, Hakkoda #9, 2009 Gelatin-silver print, Image: 42-1/8 x 52-7/8 inches, Frame: 61 3/8 x 50 3/4 inches, Courtesy of Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

Trees by Takihiro Sato
September – October, 2010
Opening reception Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:30pm – 7:30pm
49 Geary Street, Fifth Floor, San Francisco CA, 94108

Tokihiro Sato’s third solo exhibition at Haines Gallery features photographs made during a two year period from 2008 to 2009 in the Shirakami-Sanchi and Hakkoda mountains in northern Honshu, Japan. Fascinated by the sculptural features of the Japanese Beech tree, Sato’s black and white photographs honor the stoic beauty of this natural form, which, for him, suggests the ancient continental origins of the Japanese people: “It’s form is like the muscles and bones of the male body yet it’s curve is like that of a woman.”

Originally trained as a sculptor, Sato first used photography when he had the idea of tracing light tracks next to one of his wire sculptures and capturing them with a camera. This experiment, in which he created light “trails” with a small pencil torch, led Sato to the discovery that he could express himself through sculpture using photography as his medium to fuse light and space.

Sato uses traditional technology in untraditional ways. His photographs can take up to three hours to make as he moves across the landscape with mirrors and lights to create ultra-long exposures using a large-format, 8 x 10 camera set on a tripod.

As the images are being captured, the artist moves or walks into the scene within the camera’s view and begins “drawing with light” to explore ways of altering the viewers’ perceptions of time, space and movement. For nocturnal views, he uses a small flashlight.

For daylight scenes, he employs mirrors to reflect the sun back to the camera lens. Because long exposures do not capture movement, Sato’s presence is only marked by the spots and lines of light he directs towards the camera rather than any image of his physical body.

“While he is most concerned with defining space in terms of light and the performance of his body,” says Frist Center chief curator Mark Scala, “it is the effect of this performance that leaves an indelible trace on both the film and the mind’s eye. Sato’s patterns of illumination imply mysterious circumstances played out against backdrops of empty seascapes, deep forests, and dynamic cities. As haunting reflections on the dematerialization of humanity, the images offer a range of associations, from the sublimity of nature and the spirit world to the deep terror of the void.”

In addition to his signature moving light works, the exhibition will also offer a number of Sato’s still nature shots and camera obscura urban images.

Through his photographs, Sato creates a poetic, lyrical world. Perfectly still and deep, each piece presents a scene of light that seems to breathe and only exist in a dream.

Reviewed  by The Frist Center ‘s Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

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