From the age of three to fourteen he spent his childhood in Tanzania. His exposure to alternate cultures, class, and language has served as a backdrop to his interest in human perception.
He enrolled in the fine-arts program at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters in Fine Art.
Hiroshi Sato is focused on contemporary realist oil painting. He draws influence from past and present artists including Vermeer, Degas, Andrew Wyeth, Euan Uglow, Hopper and Chuck Close. Sato’s work shows his interest in geometric design principles of the old masters and is currently exploring the simultaneous illusion of form and flatness in space. His goal is to portray, and better understand our various states of consciousness within ourselves through the visual medium.
Hiroshi Sato’s work has been featured in various publications such as Fine Art Connoisseur, Juxtapoz Magazine, Visual Art Source and Art Business News Magazine.
Hello Hiroshi! You’ve lived in different countries including Japan, Tanzania and now America. Where did your artistic journey begin?
My journey as an artist was fragmented and not out of choice per se. I always thought I was going to be doing some sort of art. However, after my first year in art school, I dropped out and decided not to pursue that field anymore. I got a job, worked for a year in an unrelated field, and then went on a backpacking trip. A few months into the trip, I came to realize that although I had consciously made a choice to give up art, I was actually doing something art related in my free time. I was airbrushing surfboards, learning film photography, etc. My realization was that I couldn’t completely detach myself from making art. The conscious choice I did make was to learn as much as I could in the function of creating art. I ended my trip and went back to art school.
How have your travels enriched your cultural experiences and shaped you as an artist?
The biggest influence was being. Growing up in a place where the only person that appears, acts, lives in a place, is completely detached, “me.” The realization that there are a myriad of different versions of “me’s”, in every country, is a rudimentary version of the idea that we are all perceiving this world from our own viewpoint. Each individual experiences the same world but contains a separate world inside their mind. This idea is the main overarching theme to all my paintings. All my series explore an aspect that perception is a doorway between the inner world (the individual) and the external world.
Your work revolves around ‘contemporary realism.’ Can you tell us what you mean by this, and why this subject interests you?
I personally would not object to the notion that “contemporary realism” is a somewhat arbitrary categorization, and it is somewhat lacking in a concise consensus to what “contemporary realism” is. Realism is a genre in which its main interest lies in depicting the seemingly normal, and mundane, reality of life and depicting it for what it is. True realism strictly adheres to depicting something for what it is in both the optical and narrative. My work does not conform to true realism, since it also incorporates the modernist notion of the painted surface itself for what it is (a flat surface). However, my work is still representational, as well as exploring how we are experiencing the everyday world. For example my first series was about exploring what happens the moment we wake up from sleep; hence it is contemporary realism. Contemporary Realism is also often used to refer to works of representational art created after the 1970’s.
“All my series explore an aspect that perception is a doorway between the inner world (the individual) and the external world.”
You tend to work with oil paint. Why is this your favourite medium?
I like oil painting because at its best it contains all of the characteristics of other 2D art mediums at very high level. The inherent characteristic quality of watercolor is its transparency, but it is not optimal when thick. Acrylic paint dries fast and has body, but it is not optimal in layered wet on wet painting. A dry medium such as charcoal is efficient in depicting line, but limited in indicating mass. Photography’s quality is in purity of composition and representational texture. But it does not have as much range in the texture of the surface itself, and it is not as wide in range for abstracted manipulation. Motion Picture has a wide range of qualities. However, it is not constructed on the singular image.
We’re interested to hear about your next solo exhibition in Denver, ‘Fan Fiction.’ What was the inspiration behind that?
The title “Fan Fiction” is intended as an acknowledgment that the work I create as a representational painter is akin to a Fan Fiction writer; I am creating work more as a fan of past representational painters. I am accepting the premise that representational painters today are not creating new original works of art, but are instead painting from the past masters. I am indicating that my work is a reference of a reference. The second reason for the title of “Fan Fiction” is due to the fact that the overarching storyline in the series is about horror fiction, specifically horror fiction movies. The series itself is a fictional interpretation of horror movies. I am not referencing the sense horror of that genre, but rather the devices and allegory used uniquely in the horror genre to convey the subtext. The process of creating the series mimicked the creation of a movie. I wrote a script, created 1/12 scale sets, lit and set up scenes in 1/12scale, and edited the movie. The title of the pieces indicates the scene sequence. Similar to my previous body of work, I use objects in the scene such as movie posters, paintings in the background, arrangement of objects to allude to the narrative; mise-en-scène. I also use the same elements to reference and indicate who I am referencing, both the specific movie and past painters.
You say you’re inspired by past and present artists like Degas, Edward Hopper and Chuck Close. What is it about their work that speaks to you?
The artists I admire all contain the same intangible feeling. It is hard to describe and somewhat reductive to say the mood, but I guess that’s what it is. If I was to describe the sound I hear when I see their pictures, it is a sound of a very quiet low warm tone. Chuck Close is somewhat of an outlier. I admire him for his very specific balance of abstraction and representation.
I admire Degas for his superhuman composition and design skill.
I admire Euan Uglow for his effective depiction of 3D form on a 2D surface.
You’ve exhibited a lot at the Hespe Gallery in San Francisco. What is the city’s current contemporary art scene like, and how has your relationship with the gallery developed?
The San Francisco art scene has changed drastically due to the sharp increase in real estate prices. Most, no exaggeration, of the galleries and artists has been pushed out, and are no longer operating in San Francisco. There is no interest in art from the newer San Francisco residents, only mostly in tech. Relative to a few years ago, San Francisco is no longer an art city. I met the owner of Hespe Gallery during a critique in class. He really saw my work for what it is, ever since then we have had a very good relationship. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that he is a unique curator. He really gives room for the artists to pursue the best version of themselves while being honest.
If you could exhibit your work anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would like to exhibit in a museum if I had a choice to exhibit anywhere in the world!
What’s next for Hiroshi Sato? Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I have a Solo Exhibition scheduled to open in September with Hespe Gallery in San Francisco. I am working on pieces for that show currently titled “Through Clear Glass”