Hiroshi Sugimoto’s incredible photographic study of time and light is coming to the Hayward Gallery
By Barry Pierce | Art | 22 August 2023

For over fifty years now, Hiroshi Sugimoto has been responsible for some of the most alluring and unforgettable photographs of our time.

From his work in the 1970s on the Theatres series where he captured whole movies over one long exposure shot, compressing all the dramatic action that appeared on screen into a single image of radiant whiteness, to his work in the 1990s with Architecture where be took deliberately out-of-focus shots of iconic buildings in order to play with ideas of ambiguity, Sugimoto has advanced the form of photography and added a subtle playfulness to it.

Now, in the largest ever retrospective to date of Sugimoto, the Hayward Gallery presents Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine, an exhibition that will feature key works from all of the artist’s major photographic series, along with lesser-known works that illuminate Sugimoto’s interest in the history of photography as well as in mathematics and optical sciences.


“The camera is a time machine capable of representing the sense of time,” Sugimoto says of the exhibition’s title. “The camera can capture more than a single moment, it can capture history, geological time, the concept of eternity, the essence of time itself.”

Other notable photo series that will be on display will be Sugimoto’s 1995 Sea of Buddha series, which portrays an installation in a 12th-century Kyoto temple featuring 1000 gilded wooden statues of Buddha, and Lightning Fields (2006), his spectacular camera-less photographs created by exposing sensitised paper to electrical impulses produced by a Van der Graaf generator.

On the subject of his inspiration over the years, Sugimoto says, “A sense of space and a sense of reflected time connects all my works, no matter what medium I am working in.” This is something that is reflected throughout the exhibition, that sense of time captured and recaptured.

The exhibition will come to a stunning conclusion with a gallery dedicated to Sugimoto’s Opticks (2018), intensely coloured photographs of prism-refracted light. Taking inspiration from Isaac Newton’s research into the properties of light whilst calling to mind colour field painting and artists like Mark Rothko, Opticks presents deeply immersive fields of subtly varying hues.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine will run from 11 October 2023 – 7 January 2024 at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre.

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