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Monochrome Colors / Hiro Sugiyama / Speedy Gallery


Hiro Sugiyama

Speedy Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

June 3 - July 8, 2023

Artist Statement:

Where does the boundary between representation and abstraction lie? This has been one of the themes I have explored in my artwork. When representational works eliminate the characteristics of the painting such as color, shape, and composition to increase the level of abstraction, at what stage does the human brain classify it as an abstract painting? Just like the Schmicklarn phenomenon, where three dots arranged in an inverted triangle are recognized by the brain as a human face, the recognition of abstraction and representation is highly ambiguous.

This series of black paintings takes motifs from existing artworks and transforms them into silhouettes, simplifying them to further increase their level of abstraction. By removing all colors and painting solely in black, I am conducting an experiment to take it one step further in terms of abstraction. Similar to Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s paintings, where the image remains in the corner of one’s memory, even with two levels of increased abstraction, the brain works tirelessly to bridge the gap and imagine the colors that should have been there in the original artwork. However, if one is not familiar with the original work, the abstraction of the painting continues to increase.

At the end of the 1990s, I presented works created with silhouettes. I took the outlines of the motifs and filled the inside with flat black paint, gradually eliminating the information within. At that time, my interest was solely focused on pushing from representation to abstraction. However, with this current series of black paintings that I started creating in 2020, I performed an act of bringing the artwork back from abstraction to representation. Instead of reapplying the original colors over the blackened parts, I reproduced the original image by creating extreme relief on the canvas through brushstrokes and the thickness of the paint. The relief made with black paint gave the canvas expression through light and shadow. Viewers responded to the expressions of light and shadow and began to perceive unseen colors. Thus, the level of abstraction was brought back to representation.

In this way, I enjoy the process of creating art by moving back and forth between representation and abstraction.


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