The strongest character of Sato's work lies in his powerful self-restraint.
What makes Sato control his self-restraint seems to be a strong sense of
beauty. This sense of beauty also makes him firmly keep the painting style
of the pure realism .
The heterogeneous factors, such as the realism which advances to outside
and the symbolism which comes from the inside, and thoroughgoing delineation and its restraint,
bond during the creation of a painting. It seems like this is where
Sato's creativity is hidden.
A painter repeats many trials and errors from his/her practice period until
he or she establishes his/her unique style of painting. But in Sato's
case, once he had established his own style the degree of the completion
of the work reaches his best, and trials and errors were never repeated
Sato advanced straight to "The Wilderness Series" in the process of establishing his original style of painting. Therefore, we will next systematically classify the work which derives from "The Wilderness Series" as a center. Apart from this, we will also analyze his works during the
time period of trials and errors comes before "The Wilderness Series".
For Sato, "The Wilderness Series" were only a passing point in his life, and it seems that the techniques
which he had acquired during the first half of his life flowed toward this
and the expansion of his work in the latter half of his life started from
The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself ; 1970
"The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" describes the world which was projected inside the idea of Sato by expressing reality in the form of the precise reappearance,
while abundantly using symbols in it. This work was the first full scale
integrated picture for Sato. As for the integrated pictures, a degree of the symbol penetration
is much bigger than that of the separate pictures.
The fact that an internal idea and external universe accord and mix with each other became the basics of the human philosophy
of Sato. "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" is expressing this fact fairly directly. The conflict between the pure realism which is Sato's main idea of painting and the literal symbols is typically revealed in this work "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself".
The Neon-Pyramid Times ; 1989
Spring ; 1967
For Sato that a crowd of people was a sign that headed to death, and a
living person was drawn as an individual existence. A group of living people was never drawn in Sato's work. Also on "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" only the pile of the death as an aggregate is drawn. Then after this, it
leads to a more complete death like the mountain of skeletons in "The Neon-Pyramid Times" from here.
If we look at Sato's transitional work "Spring" we can see a crowd of people looking for water and dying from thirst.
As Sato aged, a crowd of objects started to lose its will and the aspect
of the death was becoming thick. The works which pictured an individual
people do not have the same tendency; however, it was spreading to
women in the nude who had the strongest energy of life.
The existence of individuals as oppose to a crowd is symbolically
shown by the center stick in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". Sato always drew other people in the embodiment form; however when it
came to a self-portrait he used symbols. Sato allocated the death along
the horizontal line, and the living people along the perpendicular line.
The perpendicular direction might be a kind of taboo for him.
In his integrated pictures, the perpendicularity and the verticality keep
an incredible balance. This perfectly corresponds to the distribution of
images and the world in the previous chapter.
It is considered that the Buddhists image dessin of Sato during his student years might be connected to the perpendicular
stick which is seen on "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself", and similarly the dessin of "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" to the crowd of the dead who are lying in the horizontal direction. As
we see from this point, "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" reached the perfection in terms of Sato's techniques of the first half
of his life.
In Sato's paintings, the secondary element to make death appear on the
surface is the positioning inside the vast world. The closed space is an
element of life. This vast world is represented by the horizon. Then, the
horizon strengthens the horizontality much more. By this concept, the consistent
theme was established that for Sato a continent is a place of death world.
It is possible to say that "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" can be Sato's cenotaphic work.
However, when directly looking down objects from above, the
horizontality will be hidden since the surface line of the earth becomes unable to be seen, so the death element disappears. Since the glance of pity which overlooks
the objects from above gives affection to life, it closely related to the
dilution of death. Therefore in order to make death clearer, the overlooking
glance had to be stopped.
Windy Day ; 1969
Drought in Summer ; 1967
The angle of eyes on the works such as "Spring", "Windy Day" and "The Drought in Summer" is all overlooking and the horizon is not drawn. In "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself", Sato sat in the way so he could see the group of people from the side.
And he never had drawn people from overlooking view ever since.
His concept had been switched from the Heliocentric theory to the Geocentric theory. Therefore, taken from the famous scholar Ptolemy, who believed in the Geocentric theory, this sudden change in Sato is called "the Ptolemaic rechange".
In Sato's world, the only person who stands on the earth is Sato himself
who observes all. Other people are never seen standing on the earth. Also,
Sato returned to the Ptolemaic system (Geocentric in system) in his painting world, so he never painted the Universe as a
painter. (In Sato's Ptolemaic theory he was always aware of the gravity
of the earth. Sato strongly showed his hatred to any paintings that lack
the sense of gravity. )
It was "The Pillage by a Tank" that was derived from "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". The heap of the torso-type corpses in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" showed a human society. It was changed later on in order to show a civilization,
and a tank was introduced as a symbol.
The tank is also a symbol of war. In Sato's work, when the symbol of a
civilization is combined with the group of corpses, the civilization becomes
active. However, when both of the elements are separated, as seen in "The War Theory", the shadow of the death haunts both of them. The same fact can be applied
when a civilized symbol appears alone as seen on "The Inheritance" as well.
The Pillage by a Tank 1 ; 1970
The Pillage by a Tank 2 ; 1970
The War Theory ; 1970
The Inheritance ; 1974
However, the object that is active in "The Pillage by a Tank" is the tank which is a symbol of the war. Therefore, since a tank can
be called a guide to the death, it does not represent the life. For Sato
the real world which had an expansion was the world of thoroughgoing death.
The End of Winter ; 1980
Thaw ; 1976
A civilized symbol is also hidden in "The End of Winter" and "Thaw". In these paintings the smell of death is taken away as much as the horizon
is hidden. At the same time, the intense destruction of civilization such
as a war is not directly painted.
However, dying-out fragrance is hanging around the miserable freight train
and the old electricity pole. The shadow of slight death can be felt in
the air. In other words, it is possible to say that these paintings, too,
are the posterity of "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself".
The horizon which is used to distinctly express death is reinforced by
the wind. The wind introduces the sense of time into the paintings as well.
By these effects, the power of movement enters the world of silent death
on Sato's work as a contrast.
Even when the wind is not directly painted, clouds imply death
instead. The clouds as a sign of a storm become the forecast of the upcoming
wind, and they introduce the sense of time and power that the wind has
into the picture. Clouds also hold a role as a curtain that divides the
universe. Since Sato never used sand dust in any of his work, he had no
choice but to express wind by using clouds. Therefore clouds on the ground-
level paintings give a sense of time by making an announcement of the wind.
However, a gust of wind is fluttering a flag in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". Such a direct expression of wind on the ground is never used except at
"The War Theory" which is the legitimate child of "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself".
The horizontality is the direction which makes death clear and the horizon in the sea is
also considered in a similar way. However, Sato saw the sea as a pure nature
and it was the world which was completely separated from the world of human
Time and Tide ; 2000
The absence of life also can be viewed from Sato's paintings of the sea. In "Time and Tide", Sato pulled a great meaning out of the sea, which stretches wider than
a history of human beings, and as a result Sato emphasized, "the sea
exists without human beings". These seem to prove this absence of
life. For Sato, the sea was a transcendental existence which substitutes
God and it was isolated from the finite existence of mortal life.
Sato said the human drama was painted on the sea. However, no object has
been drawn that indicates it in any of his work. A painter tells stories
only with the help of objects being drawn. The absence of life can be called
the limit of death. It may be called the absolute death which has left
As mentioned above the use of horizon makes death clearer, so the horizon on the waterline leading to
the absence of the life can be understood as a concept that has been moved
one step forward from the horizon on the ground level. Also, the view of
life in the paintings of Sato surfaces from here. For Sato, it was mainly
the human beings who gave Sato feeling of life. Mammals and birds acted
on the side. Fish, other invertebrates and plankton and so on did not attract
attention from him.
In any case, it is evident the horizontality is the goal for ultimate death for Sato.
. The life was compressed in Sato's atelier which was considered as a part
of his body. Then Sato bravely walked alone on the planet of the death
while holding the energy of life. Sato had no recognition that the sea
wais a painting of death because he was a mass of life himself.
Death in the open world and life in the closed world are placed at the
opposite poles in Sato's paintings in this way. In any case, Sato is always placed in the center
and always a main character. The world in the middle is where the undefined
zone of life and death or the incomplete life spreads. Thus the society
and the aggregation of the living human beings do not exist here.
The painting which was derived from "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" had an eternal theme for Sato and the painting of the sea was the one
that told of the history of Sato. On the other hand, since the painting
of the sea has no history by leaving a life, therefore, it is possible
to say that it is the acme of the eternity. In this way Sato sealed the
contrary element such as history and eternity inside one painting.
As mentioned above, the woman in the nude image was also the important
theme for Sato's painting; however, the source of this was in the stick
and the group of dead bodies in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". The stick developed into the standing pose of the woman in the nude,
the death bodies into the sleeping pose of her.
Also as mentioned above, "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" and the other integrated pictures that were derived from it are the fusion
of the realism and the symbolism. They not only form a brilliant achievement
of Sato's paintings but also stand as the masterpieces of him
which are considered as some of the finest in the art history.
The works that share the similar introspective viewpoint of outside world
and the inside world as the "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" are condensed in one painting. However, for the works, such as the
painting of the sea and the woman in the nude image, the introspection
and the external aspect split in between.
Evidea ; 2000
Therefore, there are no conflict and complication between inside and outside.
Furthermore the split between them seems to be emitting the reason why
Sato's late works such as "Time and Tide" and "Evidea" which is about a woman in the nude image were becoming quiet.
Let us look at Sato's other works now. In the painting of the racehorses,
strong horizontal lines and almost anger-like sense of life are drawn.
These facts seem to break the consistency about Sato's use of horizontality
as mentioned above. The racecourse is so open spaced that it seems so easy
for the death to sneak in. However it does not seem to be sure this time.
The racehorses seem to be a self-projection of Sato as it was shown in
the previous part. For Sato, self-portrait and non self-portrait were thoroughly
distinguished. Therefore, Sato's idea about the horizontality implying
death does not apply in this case since the rule does not work for self-portraits.
The stick in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" has the side of a partial self-projection of Sato. In other words, this
is a non-self-portrait while it is a self-portrait at the same time. The
painting of the racehorses can be interpreted as the expansion of the part
of the stick in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". The simple magnification of the stick is the painting of a tree and a
set of both the stick and the setting becomes Don Quixote. Either
of these belongs to the self-portraits group.
In the non-self-portraits, by making a stick and the pile of dead bodies
with bottom halves of the torso one set and confining it in the closed
space, it becomes the source of the image of a woman in the nude. Then
as mentioned above, when we consider that the stick is a living person
in general it becomes the source of the images of workmen and dancers.
"The War Theory" and "The Neo-Pyramid Times" and also the landscape paintings are obviously the direct descendents
of "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". The paintings of the race horses, Don Quixote, the trees, the woman in
the nude, and the portraits are the collateral posterity of "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself". The painting of the sea and "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself" are like twin brothers. It is possible to say that all works of Sato in
the latter half of his life rise from "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself".
Sato's entire opposing dual axis such as the symbolism and the realism
and so on are painted in "The Token on Wilderness inside of Myself".
The overview of all the works of Sato was shown above. In the next section we will analyze the details of the work based on the systematic categorization. As for "Frozen Port", "View", "The Formation of the Wilderness" and "At Dawn after Storm" they will be separately analyzed and independent arguments will be made in the other part since there is a deeper meaning in each of them.
― Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama ― ― Original translation is rewritten by Tomoko Daijo McLean ―
This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's permission.
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