|Thesis | The World of Teruo Sato |Technique|2-3 The Composition of Sato
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(3)  The Composition of Sato


The projection plan

   "Projection plan" is convenient in giving a notional grasp of the image and in manipulating independently an image, since picture's surface does not reflect exactly with human's eyes see. Hence, this plan type is appropriate to an expressionist method, in which the painter strongly expresses his/her subject. On the other hand, "perspective plan", which coincides with human's sight, is more appropriate to a literalist method. Sato made thorough use of literalist method in reproducing precisely what his eyes saw, having to always resort to this plan. Thus, in order to discuss Sato's composition, we need to deepen our understanding about the " perspective plan".
   "Perspective plan" aims to make a faithful reproduction of human's vision. The more distant an object is, the less is its perception by human's eye. Objects far way in the infinite are not perceived, that is, its size is zero. In order to express it, analogous forms proportional to the distance from the infinitely far point are drawn. The straight line that unites the far away points constitutes the horizon line.

The perspective plan

   We will call the two straight lines that frame these analogous forms, "ray". The point where ray intersects with horizon line constitutes the "vanishing point": this is where human's eyes lose sight of the segments that form the object. The method that focuses on the relationship among these four elements, namely horizon line, segments that form the object, vanishing point and ray, is called "linear perspective". "Perspective plan" has this linear perspective as its base.
   As it is well known, perspective is classified into "linear perspective" and "aerial perspective". The former focuses on the straight line that constitutes the structure of architectural building, and can be said to be a civilization-oriented perspective. The latter is a technique that diminishes and blurs distant object, used in drawing landscape, and can also be called nature-oriented perspective. The former awakes a stronger consciousness of the nature of "perspective plan" on the observer, compared to the latter.
   In certain pictures in which the horizon line is drawn, analogous forms are present and there straight lines on the ray that overlap with these forms, the viewer is left with a strong impression of linear perspective.
   As mentioned before, in Western picture, it has been made an intentional calculation so that clear depth was attached to "perspective plan" by using linear perspective. Its denial, too, has in the same way been intentionally made in the West. Thus, conflict has been occurring between "perspective plan" and "projection plan".
   Human sees things through his/her two eyes. When synthesizing the vision of both eyes, i.e., when using two eyes at the same time, they work as a single eye. In this case there is only one vanishing point on the "perspective plan". The vanishing point becomes two when using the two eyes separately.

One-Point Perspective
Two-Point Perspective

   As noted earlier, since the theme object of the picture is usually placed at the center, the sight of the viewers also concentrates in this area. In one-point perspective, vanishing point is often placed at the center of the picture's surface. In two-point perspective, they are often placed symmetrically on the left and right side close to the middle point of canvas, which is located on the horizon line that runs across the center of the picture.
   As shown in the right figure, in one-point linear perspective the horizon line appears clearly in the background, and the setting can widely fill the space above and below the horizon line. The " perspective plan" of this kind can be said to be of a setting type, that has the background as the main element, and that puts emphasis on the horizontality.
   In two-point linear perspective, as in the figure below, a vertical line appears in the form of backbone of the object that stands vertically in the foreground. The "perspective plan" of this kind can be said to be of an object-type, having the foreground as the main element, and that puts emphasis on the verticality. Hence we can see that the archetype of these two types, namely the single and two-point perspective, have natures that oppose to each other.
   One-point perspective emphasizes the plane that heads towards the background, hence is nature-oriented and picture-leading. On the other hand, two-point perspective leaves a strong impression of the pillars heading toward the foreground; is civilization-oriented and architecture-leading. To add, two-point perspective is frequently combined with linear perspective, which is civilization-oriented. In contrast, nature-oriented aerial perspective is often used with one-point perspective.
   Even in pictures of one-point perspective, if the vanishing point is biased to either right or left, it is possible to think as having half of the nature of two-point perspective. Also, in two-point perspective, if one expands the ray away from the vanishing point, it becomes akin to two one-point pictures next to each other. Hence, it is possible to say that there is continuity between the two types.
    Also, by placing such things as three-branch road at the center and using one-point perspective in the foreground and two-point perspective in the background, it is possible to make a composition that synthesizes these two types. In such a composition where elements of both types blend, it is possible that a picture possesses characteristics of both picture and architecture at the same time.
   Sato always used "perspective plan" making a good use of linear perspective. Sato's picture style was carried out rigorously even in composition setting. He never made calculations about composition setting: it was always established intuitively by his genius sense.
   This relates to the low interest Sato had in architecture. As shown in the work part, Sato suffered even in installing furniture in his atelier. According to him, Michelangelo (1475-1564 Italian sculptor, painter, and architect) was first a sculptor, who painted pictures in the intervals of his main work. But he never touched on  Michelangelo's achievements in the architectural field. For him who took non-civilization position, this is a matter of course since architecture is a product of civilization. This is why in Sato's composition of there is nothing complex such as mixture of one-point and two-point perspective that was mentioned above: instead, he held to a typical composition style.
   Sato hardly adopted two-point perspective, which is an architecture-leading type of composition. Sato, who was a painter of picture-for-picture principles, based his work on a typical picture-leading, one-point perspective.
   However, Sato never adopted the "perspective plan" in its original form established by the West, and brought in also the features of "projection plan" that opposes to it. Was it his oriental sensibility that prompted him to do so in the deep part of his soul? He did not talk much about it. All he said is that he did not want to "paint like a Westerner".
   Even if elements of "projection plan" are introduced, the picture-leading nature of the composition does not change. Rather, this nature was even strengthened since he treated the picture's surface strictly as a plane. Therefore, for Sato, there was no reason to deny the "projection plan".
    Sato, though, was the thoroughly a literal painter. This means that it was impossible for him to convert completely to "projection plan". Thus, he integrated "perspective plan" and "projection plan" in an extremely creative manner.
    He added totally original modifications to all elements that compose the "perspective plan". As stated previously, in "perspective plan", a foreground, a background, and a middleground are introduced into the picture's surface. First, Sato modified the middleground, which situates in the center and at which objects are most of the times placed. He placed a huge wall in this part and made of it his original plane.
   In many cases, the object was placed right in front of this wall. In such a case, seen from the object, this wall becomes like a setting in "projection plan". But because this was placed at the middleground, the distance effect from the foreground is maintained.
   That is, the feature of "perspective plan" being maintained, the integration of "perspective plan" and " projection plan" is realized by the existence of this wall. We name this technique of composition building The " Method of Walled Middleground".
   "Perspective plan" is a product of Western picture, and "projection plan" is a general drawing method often used in the East. This meant that for Sato, this wall represented the boundary that separates the West and the East. Therefore, borrowing the name of the alp in Central Asia that divides geographically the West and the East, we name this wall "The Wall of Pamirs".
   In Sato's picture, a naked woman in standing or sitting pose, who is depicted in his atelier, often has "The Wall of Pamirs" on her back. "Relaxation", "Red Towel", "Red Hat", and "Light in Autumn" are such examples

Relaxation ; 1984
Red Towel
Red Towel ; 1982
Red Hat
Red Hat ; 1993

Light in Autumn
Light in Autumn ; 1994

This wall is sometimes expressed in the form of shadow: "The Wall of Pamirs" does not need to be a real wall. "Uemura, the Tofu Maker" and the nude woman in Sato's picture collection in page 40 (No Title 2) are such examples.


Uemura, the Tofu Maker
Uemura, the Tofu Maker ; 1980
No Title 2
No Title 2 ; 1986

Also, as we can see in cases such as "Sunlight in Winter", "Dancer", and "Okano, the Tenpura Cook", even if there is an open space behind such as a corridor or room, shadow is intentionally painted out so that it appears as if a wall existed in this part.


Sunlight in Winter
Sunlight in Winter ; 1980
Dancer ; 1980
Okano, the Tenpura Cook
Okano, the Tenpura Cook ; 1980

For Sato who faithfully depicted what his eyes saw, it may seem contradictory that he obscured the existence of things that could be clearly seen, but it makes sense if see it as an important compositional manipulation that was made in order to create "The Wall of Pamirs". Sato's priority was more on building his original composition, than on realism that constituted his picture philosophy.

   In complete etude, there are many cases in which the existence of "The Wall of Pamirs" in the back is suggested by a reinforcing element drawn right next to the object. "An Etude for the Youth", "An Etude", and the image of naked woman in the picture collection on page 38 (No Title 5) are such examples.

An Etude for The Youth
An Etude for the Youth ; 1980
An Etude
An Etude ; 1981
No Title 5
No Title 5 ; 1985

   Despite "The Wall of Pamirs" being placed in the middleground, the background does exist. Sato, as a literal painter, could not ignore it. As pointed out earlier, in "perspective plan", the background reaches the horizon line. And as clarified in the person part, for Sato, the horizontal was the direction of death, and at the same time of the secular. In his world-view, it was necessary to counter the verticality that suggests God by emphasizing the horizontality.

Falling Ill 2
Falling Ill 2 ; 1976

   Therefore, while drawing "The Wall of Pamirs", it was necessary to express the existence of background in some way. This is the "Method of Suggestive Background". The method of suggestion is varied: one example is "Falling Ill 2", where things of real existence were blurred straight forwardly.
   Another way is to place the vanishing point significantly to the right and shift the depth to the lateral. In this way, it becomes possible that the existence of background can be felt without breaking "The Wall of Pamirs". Such cases are "The Youth" and "Yanase, the Bicycle Seller". These examples constitute a mixture of above-mentioned one-point and two-point perspective, and here the features of both picture and architecture are combined.
   Also, by putting a mirror on the wall behind and showing the space in the painter's side, it is impossible to make a paradoxical suggestion of the background. The best example would be "Gold Bracelet", and is followed by many examples of this kind in pictures of nude woman.

The Youth
The Youth ; 1980
Yanase, the Bicycle Seller
Yanase, the Bicycle Seller ; 1980
Gold Bracelet
Gold Bracelet ; 1983


Doll and a Woman in the Nude
Doll and a Woman in the Nude ; 1993

  A case that at first does not seem to suggest a background is the introduction of a horizontal object. For Sato, the most essential element of a background was the horizon line, and hence, inserting something that represents it is enough to suggest a background. An example of this would be the horizontality created by the edge of black sofa in "Doll and a Woman in the Nude"
   To say more, in cases such as complete etude where only the object and a few contours are drawn, the background is suggested sometimes by drawing at the back a small horizon line like an accent.

    A good example of it is the right image of a naked woman (No title 6). In the meantime, a short vertical line is also drawn in this picture. This shows symbolically the existence of a wall in this part. Thus, in this picture, the "Method of Walled Middleground" and the "Method of Suggestive Background" are expressed in only two straight lines. It can be said that only outstanding geniuses are able to use such a technique.

No Title 6
No Title 6 ; 1999 

   As noted earlier, thickness can be added to the main object at the middleground by placing a supplementary object in the foreground. This also keeps the distance effect between foreground and middleground. This is a feature of "perspective plan."
   On the other hand, in "projection plan," it is possible to create a tense contrast between object and setting by letting the setting penetrate into the foreground. This kind of operation becomes possible because in "projection plan" there is no need to consider the depth.
   For Sato who engaged in a thorough literalism, it was unthinkable to ignore depth. But to place a supplementary object at the foreground as in a typical "perspective plan" was equally undesirable from the point of view of pure realism. In pure realism, the theme of the picture strictly constitutes a completely concluded world. This is realized at its most by making it a  closed picture with one main object. For Sato, it was primarily dispensable such a thing as supplementary object which can bring about a danger of splitting the world.
   But the genius of Sato increased its brightness as he was faced with big difficulties. Here too, he found a way to make his picture philosophy compatible with the painting method. That was, to unify the object located at the foreground with the setting and make of it (the object) a setting's appendage, integrating them. The result is the above-mentioned way of placing things that have nature of both object and setting, such as things that did not have clear delineation or was crumbly.
   As can be easily seen in complete etude, Sato's way was fundamentally to make the object stand out clearly from the setting. But in order to maintain his picture philosophy and method, he dared to partially deny this style and unified object and setting at the foreground. Such an attitude, of stepping into an audacious self-denial without hesitation was a characteristic of eminent geniuses as well.
   In this way, the object that is placed in the foreground maintains the sense of distance inherent in "perspective plan", between the foreground and the middleground. But because this object has also the nature of a setting, a penetrating effect of setting into the foreground that resembles that of "perspective plan" becomes possible. We will call this the "Method of Dual-natured Foreground".

Summer Hat
Summer Hat ; 1984

   In pictures of nude, this is expressed in the form of carpet or cushion placed on the floor of the atelier. (See "Summer Hat") These are things that have form, but are integrated with floor and become a flat plane, acquiring the nature of setting.
   In opened pictures, which take on a feature of incomplete etude, such as "Galloping" and "Frozen Port", a part of the earth at the foreground is left unfinished and the surface of the canvas is left as it is: this strengthens the feature of setting and makes clearer the use of "Method of Dual-natured Foreground".

Galloping ; 1992
Frozen Port
Frozen Port ; 1979

    Further, sometimes the object is placed at the front, and the bottom part of the model is brought to the foreground. "Dancer", "Uemura, the Tofu Maker", "Yanase, the Bicycle Seller", and "Okano, the Tempura Cook" are thought to be such examples. In these cases, since the object at the foreground is part of the main object, they are united into one. But in such a stage, it is plausible to think that foreground was removed. In cases where the object is surrounded by the surface of canvas, as in complete etude, the foreground becomes a part of the setting.

Dancer ; 1980
Uemura, the Tofu Maker
Uemura, the Tofu Maker ; 1980
Yanase, the Bicycle Seller
Yanase, the Bicycle Seller ; 1980

Okano, the Tenpura Cook
Okano, the Tenpura Cook ; 1980

   Thus, in pictures where the main object was brought fully to the front or in cases of complete etude, its composition is extremely close to "projection plan". In these cases, we can say that the foreground was erased. In other words, the foreground may or may not exist in Sato's work.
   Complete etude is the main form of Sato's work, and it is a de facto "projection plan". The only difference is in the modeling of the object. Put differently, because of the modeling of the object, Sato's picture does not become a "projection plan". Without it, his pictures fall to a pure "projection plan".
   Therefore, Sato put an extraordinary effort in emphasizing the "modeling" of object in dessins of human. Modeling shows directly the thickness and the size of the space occupied by the object. This introduces depth into the picture's surface and maintains the nature of "perspective plan" in Sato's picture.
   Also, in complete etude in which only object is drawn, there is no room to use linear perspective. However, the space that is occupied by the object creates "perspective plan". Thus, in complete etude, a "perspective plan" without linear perspective becomes possible. Similarly, there is no room to use aerial perspective in this case.
   In Western picture, either linear or aerial method is employed in "perspective plan". But in works of Sato, who made a frequent use of complete etude, there is a complete separation between "perspective plan" and perspective. The amazing genius of Sato can be seen in that such a thing is accomplished intuitively without calculation.

                                                     \ Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama@\                                                     \ Original translation is rewritten by Chigusa Tanzawa \

This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's permission.

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