Hiroshi Sugimoto. Theory of Colours. Marian Goodman Gallery
Does not art serve to retrieve what falls through the cracks, now that scientific knowledge no longer needs a God?
The title of this series presented at Marian Goodman Gallery Paris is a reference to Sir Isaac Newton’s treatise Opticks, published in 1704. Preserved on Polaroid film, the colors of each photograph convey not only Sugimoto’s interest in the most subtle hues of the rainbow, but also those colors which embody a transition, which appear to be mixed or hard to define
Gazing at the bright prismatic light each day, I too had my doubts about Newton’s seven-colour spectrum: yes, I could see his red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet scheme, but I could just as easily discern many more different colours in-between, nameless hues of red-to-orange and yellow-to-green.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is not only a reader of Newton, but also of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In his Treaty of Colours (Zur Farbenlehre), published in 1810, Goethe described optical phenomena from a more sensitive point of view, prompting Sugimoto to develop a poetical and metaphysical perception of color “with neither Newton’s impassionate arithmetic gaze, nor Goethe’s warm reflexivity, I employed my own photographic devices toward a Middle Way.” Thus, the artist reminds us that in East Asian Buddhist doctrines, the word ‘colour’ refers to the materialistic world, while its Japanese transcription both signifies ‘emptiness’ and ‘sky.’ “To sum it up,” cites Sugimoto, “if the visible world of colour is essentially empty, then this world is as immaterial as the colour of the sky.”
Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in Japan in 1948. Since the 1970s, he worked primarily in photography, eventually adding performing arts production and architecture to his multidisciplinary practice. His work investigates themes of time, empiricism and metaphysics. Sugimoto’s work is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tate Gallery, London; among many others. His work has been the subject of numerous monographs. Sugimoto is the recipient of the National Arts Club Medal of Honor in Photography; The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal; Isamu Noguchi Award; Officier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres; Praemium Imperiale Award for Painting; PhotoEspaña Prize; and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, among others.