In the previous chapter, we showed a few viewpoints such as images and the world, the figures and the ground, objects and the settings, they all have following mutual relations between
them. Images and the world are two essential elements which construct paintings.
The image is created from one's representation and he or she
makes their own world by arranging data from the universe that enters through the field while the painter is operating it, and establishes the image in it.
In the process of completing a work an image becomes its main object according
to the theme of a painting. Then, the setting will be created as a purpose
of placing the object in its proper place and giving it a meaning in the
Among the main objects, some parts are technically emphasized so the audience
will notice its existence, and then it becomes an actual figure on
a canvas. And the part which is reinforced from the perimeter becomes its
ground. Often the figure and the object, and the ground and the setting
In a complete work, composition is set while the object and the setting are
arranged to their appropriate places by the intention of the painter.
The object and the setting become the element of the composition.
There are two ways of constructing a composition: the first one is created
by the mutual relationship between the setting where an object is
placed and the object which corresponds to the figure, and the other one
is by the mutual relationship between the object and painter's point of
The latter is divided further into three elements such as the distance between the painter and the object, the direction of the object, the difference between the viewpoint of the painter and the object in terms of heights. The direction of the object is same as, in other words, the direction which the object holds in the painting. Also, the difference in heights is measured by the angle of depression and the angle of elevation in terms of the object. It may be suitable now to name the former fact objective element of the composition, the latter subjective element of the composition.
As for "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", a human body is drawn only as an object. And in the setting the
underground passage appears only by outlines, it lacks an objective element
of the composition.
Therefore, a subjective element of the composition was fully used. This
is the factor which gives remarkable characteristic to "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage". Similarly the subjective element of composition was used on his
later works such as, the painting of woman in the nude and the painting
of the sea as a separate picture.
As for the painting of the sea, the setting is overwhelming and in the painting of the woman in the nude image,
the object pops out to the front, so they both hold unbalanced objective
element of composition. Therefore, a subjective element of composition
was used more especially on these works.
On the other hand, some of the integrated pictures such as "The Wilderness Series", the painting of Don Quixote, the painting of the racing horse, "The Inheritance", "The Neo-Pyramid Times" and so on, had its viewpoint of the painter fixed at the center of the
painting. These are the ones on which the object and the
setting keep an equilibrium state, and a subjective element of the composition was not used.
A distance to the object shows an interest and a sense of closeness as a
subjective element of the composition. This can be the most subjective
element of all. If there is a strong interest toward the object, the distance
is shortened, but if not the distance widens. Similarly, if there is a
feeling that the object is a part of the self, distance is shortened, but
if the object is taken as a social phenomenon, the distance widens. The
difference in heights shows a degree of respect toward the object. If an
object is drawn in the high place, the respect increases, if not pity increases.
Since Sato did not respect the object of "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", the respectful composition is not seen. In the works 6 "Family", 7 "An Asthmatic", 8,15, 20, 33, and 34, the objects are placed in the comparatively horizontal direction. Sato
might have felt the sense of existence from the object.
In "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", the close distance to the object is taken in some degree, so the sense
of closeness of Sato shows in it. Furthermore, figures 8, 23, 24, 33, 34, 35, and others, the distance is rather approaching and something from the
object might have allured interest from Sato.
There are other paintings (Figures 9, 19, 20, 22, 30, and 36) where an object as a figure and a floor and a wall of underground passage
as a ground are drawn in some degree and where an objective element of
composition is seen. The works where both elements, a figure and a ground,
are tentatively drawn but the spatial element is weak are Figures 7 "An Asthmatic", 27 "Oil", 28 "Mother and Child", and 35.
As described previously, in "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", the vagrant as an individual is always placed on the straight line
without any exception. The straight line where the person is placed suggests
the earth and a horizon just as it is.
This leads to the true earth later on in the scenery. Then, in Sato's paintings
that connects earth and a person lead directly to death of a person. Therefore,
in Sato's painting, living people are separated from the ground and
the individuals whom he wishes the resuscitation for are placed on
the floor of his atelier. An atelier is not a part of the earth as a nature.
However, the underground passage is a part of the earth. The underground passage
is not a natural ground but continues toward it. Therefore, the person
who lies down there on the underground passage is dying. This Sato's style
of painting has a clear embryo in "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage". "The Sleeping People
at the Underground Passage" is mostly composed by lines. It is possible to say that Sato is "the painter of horizon" in this sense. The horizontal motif, such as gusting wind that crosses surface of the ocean starts in the painting "The Sleeping People at the Underground
The horizon implies the enormous nature which includes human beings. Therefore,
it was a matter of course that Sato who was "the painter of horizon"
finally reached the pantheism that takes nature as God.
However, the vertical lines imply supernatural power. There is holiness or a Personal God in that place, and it leads us to completely opposite direction from the
pantheism. Therefore, for Sato, the vertical line was the opponent direction.
Viewed from the different point, while the horizontality is the field of
common world, the verticality is the place of holiness. It is possible
to say that Sato thoroughly paints the common world by emphasizing horizontal
Therefore, the objects that Sato arranged perpendicularly, such as the
collapsing waves, a mountain full of skeletons or the abandoned cars and
the wreckage of the tank, were the temporary existence. Sato never placed
anything which might imply eternity in the perpendicular direction, because
it implies the characteristic of God. Sato never drew universe or big mountains
from same reason. " In Japan, a confrontation between God and the
Devil does not exist." Sato often emphasized this.
However, it does not necessarily mean that Sato was turning back at perpendicular
lines. Before starting "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage", he was extensively drawing Buddhist images as standing figures. Sato looked for the object to which he could entrust himself in Buddhism in the poor symbolical system of Japan, so it seemed like he was reproducing Buddhist images
in order to search for it. However it could not satisfy Sato's technique
"The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" implanted a definite sense of horizontal lines to Sato's mind and reproduction of Buddhist images implanted a sense of vertical lines. In other words, "The Sleeping People at the Underground
Passage" is Sato's maiden work on the surface, however, the reproduction of
the Buddhist images can be called the hidden maiden work of Sato.
In this way, lines of vertical direction had disappeared from the surface
of his paintings and they became latent. This is how perpendicular lines
became supplementary role on Sato's work.
In Sato's work, a person who lies on the ground always ends up in death.
The more the earth opens, the more the smell of the death becomes strong.
When Sato draws a ground, a living person is never placed directly on top
of it. The person who holds a strong will is always cut off from the ground.
In Sato's paintings, women in the nude and people on a street are never drawn in the standing position on the ground. The woman in the nude stands on the floor of the atelier. Don Quixote and the rider of the racehorse are putting their legs on the saddle.
― 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
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