In about a month and a half after the completion of "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself" and "Wind", a two-part work of "The Pillage by a Tank" and "The War Theory", based on the theme of war, were produced. These three works directly inherit the composition design of "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself", there are also additional characteristics that the previous work did
One of them is a tank. At "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself", the reason for the existence of a cairn of the corpse was entrusted to the interpretation of appreciators. But in "The Pillage by a Tank", it is explicitly exteriorized.
In depiction of a group of people in non-cultural, non-civilized integrated picture, diversity which a community of life represents must be avoided. For this
reason, Sato picked the war as his theme since it instantly creates a heap
War is caused by civilization and
culture; art is compelled to serve as a war purpose. Therefore, Sato detached
himself from the war, and regarded it contemplatively. But he did not
constantly take up the war to avert himself put in a fixed political stand. Following
his remarks show his attitude to regard the war in a cool-headed manner: "The
war is neither vice nor virtue".
As long as being a pure realistic artist, Sato inevitably takes up the war as a theme for his integrated
pictures; but he could not keep doing so. For Sato, picture of this kind
was not the sphere that he should continuously commit to, since it could
endanger the absolute picture.
Of the tanks pictured at "The Pillage by a Tank", the above is the American tank used for the landing operation in Okinawa,
the below is the Soviet used for the invasion of Berlin. Depiction of the
tanks unrelated to him eliminates the elements of war
literature or private life novel.
Another new characteristic in "The Pillage by a Tank" is the cloud. It appears in a small quantity in "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself", and developed to support the gloom in the "Wind", finally in "The Pillage by a Tank", it has become boldly self-assertive.
Clouds in Sato's landscape imply a vast world, but at the same time
seal it within a certain limit. For Sato, a painter of a single world,
the infinite universe could trigger off the split and the multiplication
of world. Although a vast world was necessary, it did not have to exceed
the limit. Therefore, for Sato the partition between the universe and his own life space is required. The single world
which Sato creates was limited to the extent that his real life concerns.
Since the darkness in "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself" connected with the universe, it was immediately covered with a lid of
clouds in the later work of "The Pillage by a Tank". Hereinafter, Sato had not drawn a picture with the clear night sky in
its setting. Incidentally, Sato said that an image of human body is hidden
in the cloud of this work.
Experimental Work of
The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself ; 1970
A bird is pictured in one of the works of "The Pillage by a Tank" - it is an adjutant stork. The trial work of "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself" has an image of a large adjutant stork on top of the cairn of the
corpses. Its analysis will reveal what the bird implies in Sato's work.
Birds appear frequently in Sato's pictures, and are given varied significances.
Since Sato did not give any explanation, the appreciators have
to interpret it.
It can be said that the bird is the
exteriorization of God, because it weighs as heavily as a mass of corpse.
However, including a symbol of God will not only duplicate the world but also go
against the spirit of realism in a picture of which the painter himself must
be the one and only God.
Furthermore, Sato, who did not believe in the existence of God in the Orient,
especially in Japan, could not depict any substitute of God in his works;
this is why it went no further than a trial. To add more, adjutant stork
is the bird which eats the meat of the stiff ? it is, in itself, a harbinger
In "The Pillage by a Tank" several birds are arranged in distant view, which are transformed into the messenger from the world of different dimension. Being depicted as living creature, they neither destroy the scenery of nature, nor seem to have connection with a religious symbol.
Sato chose the tank as war symbol in this work by his own taste, because it is associated
with the armed samurai.
In "The War Theory", the positional relationship between the dead body cairn and the tank
had changed. In "The Pillage by a Tank" the tank symbolizing war was running; while the stiff cairn considered
as a cultural symbol, was powerlessly being pulled along.
However in "The War Theory", the stiff cairn is pulled apart from the tank, the tank of USSR
is abandoned, and the gun barrel is emptily looking toward a distant place.
It seems that Sato stood there facing up to the current war with no winner
to contemplate it to the hilt.
Here the clouds rising from the
horizon are rather prominent than inconspicuous. A tornado is also added as a symbol
of war. Given the ambiguity, the way of depicting object has greatly improved.
The Inheritance ; 1974
Four years later in 1974, "The Inheritance" - a successor of basic composition and thoughts of "The War Theory" - was produced as its extension. No stiff appears here; instead, the wreckage
of car and motorcycle is depicted to represent the force of civilization.
He keeps himself aloof from the civilization by taking up garbage, which
reifies its negative aspects as well as war and has no connection with
culture. Thus, non-culture and non-civilization are rendered at a time.
In distant view, a flying bird is also pictured instead of corpse. (According to Sato, it is a crow.) This bird is more distanced from human compared to that of "The Pillage by a Tank"; the bird here is given the meaning of a cool observer, and no longer
crow is often regarded as an ominous bird in the folklore, and as a messenger
of human’s death; it represents both life and death. Representation of its death
aspect formulates the idea of non-civilization and non-culture. The distance of
the bird emphasizes its role as an omen of death..
In this picture, a fragment of the sky peeped out from the clouds put double
cover between the universe and the ground. The blue sky suggests a universal
expanse as well as being the first cover. This effect is also used fully
in the picture of the tree.
Clouds placed in the higher position, such as in "The Inheritance", imply the universe and their consolidated significance as its cover.
Clouds in the middle, in turn, suggest the sky and their role as its cover.
Here even though the expression of the whole sky gains diversity, the single
world on the ground is yet firmly sealed; the world of pure realism is
The reason for the car being chosen is, when Sato was thinking of ancient
civilizations - the pyramid in Egypt and the Great Wall of China, for instance
- he associated cars and motorcycles with Japanese cultural heritage possibly
equivalent to such civilizations. The year of 1974, when this piece was
created, saw a rapid increase of Japanese car export; it might have helped
him to come up with such idea. All cars and motorcycles depicted here are
naturally made in Japan.
The Formation of the Wilderness ; 1980
"The Formation of the Wilderness" pictured in 1976 brought him back to face a war along with the reappearance of the tank in "The War Theory" and the adjutant stork in "The Pillage by a Tank". Compared to "The Inheritance", the sky spreads out even more, balancing with clouds.
In this piece, there is a big hole opened at one corner of the sky. To
use Sato's words, this is to be associated with a hollow gauged out by
the intercontinental ballistic missile. This idea flashed into his mind
when he was watching a war film, at the moment he thought that the actor
rushed out of the screen. (Incidentally, this hole was traced from the
hole opened on an aluminum foil by a squib.)
In his depiction of the missile, a war symbol, it is belching out grits
to form a desert. Sato's message here is the extinction of all lives including
human beings consequent upon a nuclear war. He says that these grits see
through so far as a revival of the new life afterwards.
The message may be a reaching point of Sato's non-civilized naturalism.
Beyond the hole there is the universe as the night sky, which he had been
avoiding to draw due to the risk of world's diversification. Nonetheless,
in this piece, he broke a part of such taboo, and brought world's multiplicity
into his canvas at a stroke - Sato was on the verge of shelving pure realism
with his own hands.
Such attempt was done only once; at
that time the devilish temptation of integrated picture may have driven Sato, a
pious apostle of pure realism, into such deviation.
Sato mentioned later that he wanted
to pursue the trial attempted in this work. However, that could not have been done
because it would press him the abandonment of pure realism.
The Neo-Pyramid Times ; 1989
In 1985 "The Neo-Pyramid Times", which can be defined as a comprehensive integrated picture of Sato, was produced. Observed here are: the adjutant stork of "The Pillage by a Tank" and "The War Theory", the arrangement of the sky and clouds developed from "The Inheritance" into "The Formation of the Wilderness" on the theme of extinction of the human race as historical conclusion resulting from a full-scale nuclear war which is developed from "The Formation of the Wilderness". In line with its theme, flaming afterglow in the sky is depicted in setting,
indicating the twilight of human civilization.
Since the bird is depicted larger than in any other work ever
drawn, its character as a messenger from the other dimension has come to
the fore; the God's viewpoint is predominant here.
Sato didn't use the expression "God", but used the term "the
viewpoint of a bird". Then, as to support this, he said that the cairn
of the skeleton in this picture was drawn just as a bird flying in the
air sees. The image of a skeletal cairn came to his mind at the time when
he was building the concept of "The Inheritance". He explained that the pyramid of Egypt remained in his mind, and then
he overlapped it with the image of the extinction of human race.
A group of people reappears after an
interval of 19 years in this work. Their faces were pictured for the first time
in integrated picture. And yet, these faces are no more than dead inorganic substances.
As illustrated by the bleak ground of unspecified area on earth which does
not conclude as scenery, this piece is excellent in composition of pure
realistic integrated picture - neither nature nor human are allowed to
present an independent world, but both of them are given importance and
creating a single world.
The Conference after It ; 1993
"The Conference after It", pictured in 1993, is an echo of "The Neo-Pyramid Times". It is possible to regard this picture either as a warning to the human extinction, or as an irony. If interpreted as irony, his cool sight of humans - who are continuing a battle even after they perished, without knowing it
- is obvious. If interpreted as warning, we can sense his acute love to
the human race. This piece can be taken for a prediction of the future
or for a record of past tragedy as well.
All aspects of the past, present, and future coexist in momentary scenery; it enables us to overlook the entire human history. When the history is pictured affirmatively, the cultural variety would come into view. So, Sato was struck with the way of grasping the whole history abstractly, holding on to the negative side of the culture. Until then Sato had never taken up history as his subject, but drawn pictures of only the present time. The following words that he wrote in the epilogue of his own paining collection indicate this: "After all, the painter pictures the contemporary history, though I don't know whether it will become a historical testimony beyond the time or not." These became the words of the past when Sato produced "The Conference after It".
picture does not display the value as other integrated pictures, but its symbolical
meaning is remarkably serious and deeper than the other pieces of work.
Among Sato's integrated pictures, there is one that doesn't belong to the
genealogy of "The Token on Wilderness Inside of Myself" - It is "At Dawn after Storm", which is regarded as Sato's masterpiece.
At Dawn after Storm ; 1981
"At Dawn after Storm", also an integrated picture, has the consistent aforementioned methodology
of pure realism. Here a moribund sea-maid thrown up on the seashore is
depicted. (According to Sato, this sea-maid was still alive.) The
sea-maid symbolizes the nature, and his viewpoint of non-civilization is
indicated in the quantity of garbage, a warning to human's destruction
of the nature.
The composition in this piece flashed upon Sato when garbage was actually
thrown up on the seashore before his eyes. As for this scenery of seashore,
the place is in Fukaura, Aomori Prefecture, which faces the Sea of Japan.
(North edge of Honshu Island)
Sato said that his picture of the sea is a projection of human consciousness.
His comment "The drama of the sea is a reflection of that of human"
supports this belief.
He had a belief that precise matter-of-fact depiction of objects would
surpass humans' imaginative power. Therefore, even his production out of
the most superb flash was placed only in the low position in his self-evaluation.
This picture formulates a thick
element of landscape; and the scenery is divided into two: the sea and the
beach, then further into three by adding the sea-maid on the boundary. This may
be his only one piece which depicts three worlds crossing over.
Now we have seen all Teruo Sato's works listed in his book of pictures from the side of pure realism. Sato, seen from this viewpoint, is fully passive. However, the true meaning and greatness of his works cannot be grasped without observing from another direction - that is, looking at the canvas from the painter's side, instead of looking at the painter through the canvas. Therefore, in the following section, we will begin to reexamine his works from the opposite direction.
― Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama ―
― Original translation is rewritten by Michiko Takahashi
This text must not be translated into any other language without author's permission.
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