Using the Past to Confronfront Important Issues: Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto

Using the Past to Confronfront Important Issues: Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto

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Contemporary Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto works to address contemporary issues while using ideas, concepts, and materials from his heritage. He was born in Tokyo in 1948. Graduating from Saint Paul’s University, Tokyo in 1970, he then traveled to Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles California to finish his education in 1974. Sugimoto primarily works as a photographer, but he also works as an architect and a designer. Artwork by Sugimoto is comparable to the Shinto shrines, Buddhist art and Shino wares used in the tea ceremony. His work reveals that his Japanese heritage has strongly influenced him. Hiroshi Sugimoto uses ideas and materials from his heritage, while confronting contemporary issues, such as the need to go back to traditional roots, honoring and preserving the past.
Commissioned to design a Shinto shrine Hiroshi Sugimoto uses concepts, traditions and materials from heritage to design the shrine. The Go-Oh Shrine was first built in the Muromchi period. Instead of replicating the original shrine, Hiroshi sought to build the shrine to follow the ancient Japanese Shinto worship tradition. The site consists of three parts, the Worship Hall, the Main Sanctuary, and the Rock Chamber. One takes a journey through the shrine. The massive rock slab is where the local kami would visit. What is known as the “stairway of light” connects the celestial and earthbound realms. Once one reaches the bottom of the stairwell they are in the chamber that represents ancient time. Then walking through a hallway represents a journey to returning to the present. One emerges from the shrine and sees a view of the sea, and this view serves to represent the present. This Shinto shrine is significant for three reasons. First, the Go...

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...turning to traditional roots. According to-------------- in these photographs he sought to go back to the twelfth century Buddhist ideals. He did this because of his experience with the owners of the temple. In this interview, he explained that this ancient Buddhist temple is now seen by people in Japan as a business to attract tourist and make money. It was important to Hiroshi to photograph these because the Buddhist religion is fading in Japan. No longer is does this temple serve to practice the religion, but instead it function is to make money for the people of Japan. In, addition he explained that people are forgetting the importance of Buddhist beliefs and spirituality. In this series of photographs, Hiroshi wanted to force people to remember the traditional Buddhist beliefs and the importance of spirituality over making money, which is now being forgotten.

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