Hiroshi Sugimoto – Still Life @ Pace Gallery, London

Posted on January 6, 2015

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I had a chance to make a brief visit to the Sugimoto ‘Still Life’ exhibition at the Pace Gallery in London today. It was most impressive. I have seen three Sugimoto exhibitions now—his landscapes/seascapes in Arles last year, his Architecture photographs at the recent ‘Constructing Worlds’ exhibition at the Barbican and now his Dioramas at Pace.

Each time entering the gallery space was quite breathtaking. Always the photographs have been monumental silver gelatin prints beautifully captured and produced.  There is a grandness about his work which is on a par (in my view) with the great paintings that one sees in major galleries. I wonder if what I am experiencing is Benjamin’s Aura?

The works are still and though provoking.

Still Life Exhibition Hiroshi Sugimoto Pace Gallery London Installation

Still Life Exhibition Hiroshi Sugimoto Pace Gallery London Installation

In the case of the Dioramas, or Still Life as the exhibition calls this work the photographs are of museum diorama exhibits. The dioramas are representations of scenes from history or the natural world. In the foreground are realistic animals, people, foliage and trees and so on. These are in fact models or in the case of the animals are possibly created by taxidermy. The backgrounds of the scenes are generally painted or photography based screens.

By photographing the dioramas, Sugimoto is creating a representation of a representation. And in the photographic medium the scenes somehow seem more real than they would have in a museum setting (where it would be apparent that they as just representations). However, when one looks in detail at the images, which are very large, it is possible to see the marks of the brushstrokes of the artists who painted the backgrounds and the scenes are revealed to be fakes. I wonder if Sugimoto was intending use this as a device to show that photographic representation is also fake?

The exhibition is well worth a visit. It confirmed in my mind that my decision to work with large prints for ‘Lifting the Curtain’ is correct. I want my viewers to feel emersed in the scenes before them….

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