06.03. –17.04.04
Hiroshi Sugito (JP)
„the birdsong“
Solo exhibition at Arndt & Partner, Berlin



Within the past years the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugito has gained international recognition, particularly in the context of the Tokyo-Pop movement. However, his pictorial language diverges significantly from the ‘Super Flat’ aesthetic of his colleagues. Often theTokyo-Pop artists appropriate not only the childlike pictorial motifs of popular culture, such as manga comics or anime films, but also ist style by applying glaring colours, painting flat planes rather than volumes, and creating entirely smooth surfaces. Hiroshi Sugito’s subject matter however does not draw its inspiration solely from the stereotypes of mass culture. The initial impulse of his paintings seems to originate from memory, and his attention is turned inwards. In Sugito’s suggestive and bizarre pictorial inventions visual reality, dream, and childlike fantasies become one. Sugito also stands out in the field of Tokyo-Pop with regards to his painting technique. His atmospheric paintings are characterized by an open brush language and a fascinating enigmatic translucency.

In Sugito’s recent works tiny, stylized and sometimes vaguely discernible objects, such as mountaintops, waves, blossoms, and birds, as well as military airplanes, missiles, or fire, are hovering within vibrating fields of colour, which seem to expand into infinite space. The transparent depth of the luminous spaces is achieved through a sophisticated and time consuming technique of applying numerous layers of acrylic paint and dry pigment. Floating within those painterly horizons, the figurative elements seem uneasily lost in time and space, thus avoiding any obvious narrative or anecdotal meaning. Rather they read as poetic ciphers for memories, thoughts, and sensations. Similar to Magic Realism, Sugito frees the material objects from their conventional meaning and then uses them as open pictorial signs for his fantastic and sometimes disquieting imaginary worlds.

Recurring motifs in Sugito’s paintings are curtains, referring to a predominant metaphor of Western painting. A variation of the window motif can be found in the fragile grids of horizontal and vertical lines, which run across the entire picture plane, resembling blinds. Viewed from a distance they read as geometric abstractions. Sugito intelligently plays with the opposite compositional concerns of geometric abstraction and figuration, as well as with the tension between surface and spatial illusionism.

Due to their avoidance of linear perspective and their generous use of empty space, Sugito’s pictures are often compared to traditional Japanese painting, in particular to coloured woodcuts. During his artistic training Sugito studied ‘Nihonga’, a painting technique originating in the 19th century, which strives for combining conventions of traditional Japanese painting with pictorial strategies of Western Modern Art. Sugito’s oeuvre seems to push the aesthetic engagement of the ‘Nihonga’ style onto a different level. His paintings humorously and allusively comment on the history of the reciprocal influence of Western and Japanese pictorial traditions, and reveal the clichés, on which the perception of the Other is often based.

Hiroshi Sugito was born in 1970 in Nagoya, Japan, and studied at Aichi Prefectural University of Arts, Japan. He lives and works in Nagoya. Besides numerous group exhibitions in Japan (Museum of Contemporary Art), Europe (Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Ursula Blickle Foundation, Kraichtal, 8th Istanbul Biennial), and the USA (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art), he had successful solo exhibitions in Tokyo (Tomio Koyama Gallery, Contemporary Art Factory), London (London Projects), New York (Nicole Klagsbrun), Los Angeles (Mark Foxx), Milano (Galeria Gian Ferrari), and Sao Paulo (Galeria Camargo Vilaca).

We are delighted to announce Hiroshi Sugito’s third solo exhibition ‘the birdsong’ at Arndt & Partner.