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Hayward Gallery : Hiroshi Sugimoto : Time Machine


The art of time by Jean-Jacques Ader

The works of the famous Japanese artist, who has been producing unique photographic work for around fifty years, provoke both contemplation and questioning, and always evoke philosophical questions around time and understanding it.

The director of the Hayward Gallery in London, Ralph Rugoff, defines Sugimoto as a visual poet of paradox, a devotee of painstaking craftsmanship that produces exquisite and unsettling images of exceptional quality. Modification of the meaning of history, time and existence itself. His series of dioramas, begun in the 1970s, questions the representation of eras in museums and also evokes trompe l’oeil and the veracity of photographs.

Sugimoto tells us: “The camera can capture more than just a moment, it can capture history, geological time, the concept of eternity, the very essence of time… The more I think about the meaning of time, the more I think it was probably one of the key factors that allowed man to become human.”

The Hayward Gallery exhibition also gives us the chance to see pieces more focused on the history of photography and science. The concepts of time, space and light are integral parts of his medium.

The time existing inside an image is also present in his Theaters (1976 -) compressing an entire duration of films into a cinema screen illuminated with light. Also present here, the Seascapes (1980 -), images shared horizontally equally by the sky and the sea, illustrate timelessness and the landscape that already existed before human beings. What remains of the Beaux-arts buildings of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Twin Towers photographed out of focus? Fictional shapes, silhouettes? Ruins ?

In a register close to Dioramas, the mannequins of personalities from the Madame Tussauds wax museum are brought to us strangely alive by photography, which is nevertheless supposed to stop time…

Also, exhibited in this first major retrospective on English soil, Sea of ​​Buddha (1995) joins the idea of ​​timelessness, through 1001 gilded wooden statuettes. With Lightning fields (2006 -) Sugimoto manages to make electric discharges visible on sensitized paper, without a camera.

Optiks (2018 -) which deals with the properties of light, here passing through prisms, and the intensely varied color hues that it can take. Two polished aluminum sculptures, with abstract and elegant shapes, remind us of Sugimoto’s training as an architect, undoubtedly already predestining him to deal with time and space.

Jean-Jacques Ader


The exhibition will tour internationally in 2024, to the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (March 23 – June 23, 2024) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (August 2 – October 27, 2024). October 2024).

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine is curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff with assistant curators Thomas Sutton and Gianluca Gianluca. Thomas Sutton and Gilly Fox, assistant curators, and Suzanna Petot, curatorial assistant.


Hiroshi Sugimoto : Time Machine
Until January 11, 2024
Hayward Gallery
South bank center, London


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