Seascapes: Gerhard Richter and Hiroshi Sugimoto

Two seascapes side-byside

Left: Hiroshi Sugmito, Seascape. Right: Gerhard Richter, Seascape

The horizon is a human line, magnetizing sight, drawing it forward with a promise of the unknown. With no firmament to stand upon, only the infinite separates the waters above from the waters below. The vastness of the outer reveals the chasm of the inner, and the horizon is either death’s threat or perhaps its promise.

In Richter’s waters the tumultuous waves reach up to the roiling clouds above and negative upon negative, photography unifies the elements, while painting divides them. The sky and ocean stare at one another like crouching animals, the white blurry line separating them is vision’s route of escape.

In Sugmito’s frozen mirror, the ocean returns the light which the sky lacks. The immobile grey slabs of water stand in monolithic blocks of colorlessness upon the darkening sky, and only the white strokes of clouds illuminate the still water upon still water.

In both Seascapes the waters’ voice is the horizon, whether motion or quietude be its language. One frozen with stillness, the other alive with desire. One accentuating photography’s power to arrest time, the other emphasizing painting’s force of movement. The single horizon line which both images share is a frontier joining these waters in unison as it hews them apart.

These mediations reduce the human gaze to futility before a vastness which the eye cannot see, the mind cannot comprehend.  One turns one’s head, and in no direction is firmament to be found. Only water above and water below. All is nothing but sight, and in fear or awe the creature can do little other than stare off the world’s edge.

In the very heart of this circle of vision sits the eye staring at the sea, contemplating the itsendlessness, as man has done since time began, and as man shall do until it ends.


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