Hiroshi Sugimoto: Sea of Japan, Oki 1987

September 21, 2016 - October 31, 2016


When was the emperor the ruling authority and also held actual power? I think the best example is the time of retired emperor GoToba (1180 – 1239), who ruled during the early Kamakura period (cir 1185 – 1333). Around the end of the Shōwa era, in the fall of 1987 (Shōwa 62), I visited Okinoshima, an island in the Japan Sea. For long I had wanted to see its seascape. I was unable to forget a poem by GoToba, who personally compiled the imperial anthology of poetry, Shin kokin wakashū.

I am the Governor of Niijima.
The rough winds above the waves at Oki’s sea,
I make them my own. Blow!

So that is what the spirit of imperial power really is, I thought. GoToba composed this poem while in exile at Oki, a result of the Jōkyū War (1221). The exiled emperor thought of himself as the new lord of the island, making the winds his own and subduing the sea to his command. I wanted to experience with my own eyes the sea that GoToba saw. When I arrived on the island, I was struck by the towering cliffs that face the Japan Sea for hundreds of meters. As I stood on top of them, gazing down towards the sea spread out beneath me, instead of composing a poem, I took a picture.

     – Hiroshi Sugimoto


Yoshii Gallery is pleased to present Sea of Japan, Oki 1987 by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The exhibition features 5 early works in Sugimoto’s seascapes series. They represent time exposed, taking us to a place that has been unchanged since the beginning of humanity. It is in these serene seascapes, that Sugimoto honors his hero by capturing the transcendent reality of the sea.

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