Tokihiro Sato

Tokihiro Sato

Work from Trees and his oeuvre.

There is a lecture this afternoon by Sato @ Indiana University in Bloomington, IN in conjunction with The Center for Integrative Photographic Studies. Trees is currently showing at Haines Gallery in San Francisco.

“Tokihiro Sato’s images of the stately trunks of Japanese beech trees amid the undergrowth of the forest operate on several different levels, proof that there are still original ways to take on a subject as traditional as the grandeur of nature in the wild. Sato’s frontal tree portraits sparkle with unexpected pinpricks of light, clusters of bright dots mysteriously hovering around the base of each tree.

For the process minded, Sato’s works have plenty of technical complexity. Using an 8×10 view camera, he makes long exposures (measured in hours), intermittently moving into the frame with a mirror, aiming vectors of sunlight back at the camera lens; the result are various points of light, made by an invisible photographer.

For those with a conceptual bent, these works seem to tie back to the Land Art movement of the 1970s, or to more ephemeral examples of similar ideas from artists like Andy Goldsworthy. Sato’s gestures with light are like those of a surveyor, using light to measure and define the natural space; he calls the process “photo-respiration”.

And for those with a sense of whimsy, Sato’s lights become fireflies and fairies, or ethereal ghosts from Latin American magical realism. The difference in luminescence between the textured grey of the trees and roots and the sharp light of the pinpricks is so strong that the lights seem to literally jump off the paper, drawing all the attention to the movement and excitement they capture.

Overall, I found these images be quietly elegant and serene without being boring or gimmicky, mixing the straight and the conceptual with a deft hand.” – DLK Collection.

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