Born in 1989, Hitomi Sato, Tokyo-based artist, explores the fields of immersive art, architecture and design, with different materials and forms used to create various effects, interactions and expressions of light. Her artistic practice focuses on spatial installation art and she has been actively working in the field of interior design and space design by utilizing her knowledge of architecture, as she majored in architecture at the Musashino Art University. She received the Asia design prize in 2019.
By using the combination of light particles and space, she plays with the everyday or high-tech materials or the organic elements of nature, the optic play of the rays of light (shimmering water or the komorebi – the light filtering through the tree leaves).
Her first artworks « Sense of Field », «Light of Temple» or « Heart Washing Room » are immersive installations involving the human body interacting with immaterial phenomenons and elements such as “shimmers” of light. Visual and poetic experience depending on the time and season, to enter Hitomi Sato’s world is to engage one’s sense of touch, smell, hearing, temporal.
In the future, we may not satisfy with high technology and function. Mental needs are more and more important in our life. Until now, we “read” weather information on newspaper, TV, PC and mobile phone.
It will be exciting to “feel” weather by our senses. So we think it may be interesting to make a glass cube, which can produce weather phenomenon like a snowball――Weather Cube. Weather Cube realistically and vividly shows current outside weather. It doesnʼt simply display weather symbols, but use water expression to create a live weather scene by ultrasonic.
For example, peace means sunny, shower is rainy, wave symbolizes wind and steam stands for foggy. Itʼs really easy to understand weatherʼs detail such as intensity of rainfall and strength of wind. Most importantly, we donʼt only get information of weather, but also be able to “feel” weather at home.
When I see the “shimmer” of light, images of various natural light come to my mind. For example, ripples on surface of the water, sunlight through the leaves of trees, rays from a break in the clouds, reflections on window glass . “Shimmer” of light makes me feel that it is natural light even if it is artificial. I would like to express the unity of “shimmer” and our body in this work .
The Japanese emerging artist based in Tokyo has a notable background in architecture and design from her study at the Musashino Art University that impacted her aesthetic. Focused on the harmony of light, Hitomi Sato finds inspiration in the observation of the everyday unexpected beauty produced by organic elements coming together each other by sheer chance. The unveiling of rays of light touching asphalt or the interaction between the natural laws of the weather and high-tech are all examples of the optic play she integrates in her immersive and harmonious artworks.
As she discusses her creation process and her vision of the future of contemporary art and technology, Hitomi Sato expands on the role of the spectator’s intervention in achieving the release of resonances of one’s inner world and memories.
ArtPremium: What is the role of light in your artworks ?
Hitomi Sato “I treat the light as a medium. When we see the environment we see it through the light, which means that as time goes by it looks different, it changes and you feel the time difference. But at that point when we see the environment, we do not just see it: our body starts reacting and integrating into the particular environment. When you go back to daily life, there are so much information surrounding you that this body reaction doesn’t happen because the body is getting stiff. So what I am trying to do with the light is to release the tension of that stiff body and I am trying to find out what is the best way to do it.
The core essence of her art reveals itself in the tangibility and multi sensorial experience. The temporal and spatial holistic approach in her Sense of Field (2016) work, a glimmering walkway packed with optic fibre-like radiant light film is telling of the artist’s interactive play with both the viewer and the artwork. “The audience has to feel” and this sparking of body memory is the realization of how the observer’s body will change when immersing itself into her optic and spatial illusion. Light, and especially natural light, has an polymorphic effect and Hitomi Sato stresses on the freedom to choose the meaning we may find in the internal and physical involvement with the art piece, as a unique interaction each time different.
Your installations immerse the viewer in your works while involving movement and touch. What is the role of the body in engaging ourselves with art?
“Body involvement is very interesting because this happens without my intention in creating any particular object. There is no message in my art, I’d rather say that my art’s function is to nurture the mind and body of the observer so that they can really define or feel their relationship between the inner and outer. Art is not just for the eyes, it is interesting for us the creators to make the audience understand that they are many ways to appreciate it using the five senses of the human body, including smelling, touching… The human body is great because it is not only the sight and the eyes which detect the walls surrounding you, the whole body is reacting to what they see and feel.”
What kind of colours do you usually tend to integrate and associate with light?
“My primary interest is in light, colour comes next. First of all I am focusing on the light and when I start focusing on the changes or metamorphose, then I think about the colour as a very subtle addition. I take great care when I choose the colours because for me it must be transparent, clearer, cleaner. I will not just use primary colours, but rather a subtle colour which is closer to the light, to the sunlight.”
As a cascade of colorful panels hung from her installation Heart Washing Room, Hitomi Sato’s meticulous and elegant work engage with the landscape or urban architecture surrounding the artwork, taking into account the rhythm associated with the constant growing of a city or the dichotomic framework between the order and disorder. As she explores the relationship between human beings and nature, her art forms a bridge between the outside and the inside, as a means to enhance the sense of feel. In Light of Temple that Sato created in a Buddhist temple out of an exquisite light phenomenon, she intents to recreate the serenity of being in a hut and feeling nature’s special beauty.
Thus greatly inspired by the Japanese culture, she mentions the sunpou寸法 (measurement) specific to the Japanese strict way of making regulated or customized actions, sharing the time or collectively judging materials and keeping a distance between people. The thorough Japanese control or pattern is analogous to the fusuma, the Japanese sliding doors made of paper, which primary function is to shut down the outside world while still being able to feel the slightest change of the environment, light or sound. Feeling this blurry and flexible limit between the inner energies and the external nature is what Hitomi Sato renews in her artworks.
Organic elements often play a role in your installations or objects. How do you establish relations between the natural environment and the universe through the human senses – also regarding the Komorebi effect?
“I always am interested in the human being. As you live there is an accumulation of customs, for example common sense which comes from all the information accumulated in one’s life. What I like to try is to release those elements from the human body and mind and let the audience or observer be free from it. What I personally think about the modern world is that we are losing the archetype; the original, basic or beginning things are now broken up. We lost the focal point and point of reliance.
I am trying to evoke the primitive memories of the human being by causing the vibration which can connect us to the primitive or the cosmos. When you see the shimmering water or the komorebi – the light poring through the tree leaves – we feel that it is such a lovely landscape. Yet that kind of feeling started from the old archetypical memory, which maybe the primitive people also had. That, I think, is the vibration and the repetition of light and nature.”
Through the influence of design you also use ordinary or plain materials in your different works. How do you integrate nature and design in your work? Is it a way to reconnect everyday objects with immaterial or spiritual senses?
“I think the process of making my art is more important and especially regarding the materials. I am always trying to see the things purely, so that the materials shouldn’t be seen as materials. For example if you take the example of acrylic, we sort of have a presumed concept that this thing is transparent and hard but I intentionally tried to break that prejudice, just like the primitive people who have never seen acrylic before. So my main function and main concern is to deconstruct the already constructed concept and way of seeing.”
Hitomi Sato first studied architecture, without aiming to become an architect as she was more concerned about the performance space, the philosophical aspect of degeneration ,“ how one piece a wall will affect the human being, and his mind and body” and the Japanese unique way of sensing time and space. She continued her study in a graduate school as a major in science of design where she studied basic theories of design and the Bauhaus. Her minimalistic design and various works have been exhibited in numerous countries since 2012, from 「THE WALL」exhibition in Bologna, Italy (2017-2018), a project in Melbourne, Australia around the tea ceremony. Her more recent works are collaborations between architecture and art, as well as the study of the ever-present intricate relationship between individuals and nature. While exploring the three fields of art, architecture and design, Hitomi Sato’s aesthetical aspiration is now to show the audience how to touch the light and to depict the morning sun.