a thing or two about shadows | Hiroshi Sugimoto

by agnes s.


“Starting from cracking nuts with rocks like apes, the use of tools has undoubtedly added to human acumen. The use of tools as extensions of our hands has greatly expanded our interaction with nature. Over such interactions, we’ve also acquired mental habits. In making arrows to shoot down birds in flight, we’ve had to understand how birds fly, as well as how to flake and grind stone to make arrowheads. No sooner had humans grasped the notion of vertical gravitation and begun to walk upright, freeing our hands from ground movement, than we started picking things up as tools, and so developing our brain.

I myself have done my share of inventing tools for realizing various art projects. My studio is more of a workshop Often they just don’t sell the tools I need for the job: like a simultaneous vertical-horizontal agitator” to prevent uneven film developing for my Seascape negatives, or an “time-lapse anti-slip device” for shooting my Theaters, or a “super-wide angle bellows” for my Architecture series.

I’ve learned many things from using my hands. While I’m still not sure about the nature of light―whether it’s waves or particles―I’ve learned a thing or two about shadows. Thinking  to devise a way of observing shadows, the project escalated into a major undertaking, requiring an entire hilltop penthouse in an older apartment in Tokyo. When surfaces receives light, the light effects varies according to the angle of exposure. Selecting three distinct angles―90°, 55° and 35°―I had the walls surfaced using traditional Japanese shikkui plaster finishing, which absorbs and reflects light most evenly. In the morning light, the shadows play freely over the surfaces, now appearing, now vanishing. While on rainy days, they take on a deeper, more evocative cast. I’ve only just begun my observations, but already I’ve discovered a sublime variety in shadow hues.”

Colors of Shadow – Hiroshi Sugimoto