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Hermès launched the latest Carré d’artiste with Hiroshi Sugimoto this past June during Art Basel in Switzerland. If you didn’t have the chance to see this gorgeous collection of silk scarves titled, “Couleurs de l’ombre,” then, you’re in luck: it will be exhibited again, this time during Art Basel Miami Beach from December 7- 9 at 175 NE 40th Street in Miami’s Design District.
Sugimoto is the third artist to take part in the ongoing biannual initiative of the luxury brand, following collaborations with the estate of Josef Albers and Daniel Buren. The Hermès Editeur 3 was created by transposing a selection of 20 Polaroids onto 140-by-140-centimeter silk scarves (the largest produced by Hermès) from a 10-year experimentation of color by Sugimoto inspired by the likes of Isaac Newton and Goethe. “Ten years of time was needed for me to complete the artwork titled Colors of Shadow,” says Sugimoto. “My daily routine saw me rise at 5:30 every morning. First thing, I would check for hints of light dawning above the eastern horizon. If the day promised fair weather, next I would sight the “morning star” shining to the upper right of the nascent dawn. Depending on how bright Venus appeared, I could judge the clarity of the air that day . . . only then did I ready my old Polaroid camera and start warming up a film pack from the long winter night chill. . . . Consistently clear Tokyo winter mornings found me swimming in a sea of colors. With neither Newton’s cool, impassionate arithmetic gaze on nature, nor Goethe’s warm poetic reflexivity, I employed my own photographic devices toward a middle way.”
Whitewall spoke with the artist over the summer about taking the photos and translating them to the iconic carré.
KATY DONOGHUE: Tell me how this project began.
HIROSHI SUGIMOTO: I started to study the nature of the light. I wanted to follow Newton’s idea and then finally started studying the nature of the light and using the Polaroid to follow the color and imagery out of a prism. And then Hermès approached me and I decided to use these images for the Hermès scarf project.
KD: How was it working with Hermès’s artistic director, Pierre Alexis Dumas?
HS: Well, I’ve followed him for such a long time. The first time I officially met him was during 2003 when I was doing a very big show in Tokyo. We became friends, actually, and we worked well with each other because of the level of the craftsmanship. I pay quite too much attention to craftsmanship. In my case, the craft of photography is a very important issue. And Hermès products have the highest level of craftsmanship traditionally.
KD: So it was like a “meeting of the minds?”
KD: Speaking of craft, how did you decide the way you wanted your photographs to be printed on the silk? The photographs were transposed onto silk with special inkjet technology that results in the image on both sides of the scarf.
HS: Well, it’s the same as in printing on paper, but it’s even more difficult printing on the silk. So this was quite a challenge for Hermès. They developed a system of how to make the silk scarf, but the printing was a totally new system, using newly invented machines. They used to use a silk-screen-type traditional method, but now they are facing a totally 21st-century technology printing method. So this is not just printing my scarf; it is a new future for Hermès. So I think that we have created something together, something new for the future.
The Polaroids were re-photographed [digitally] and then transferred to the 140-centimeter square. I usually don’t use digital technology in my photography, that’s the first time digital technology was involved.
KD: Would you ever use digital technology in your work?
HS: My art, for photography I have no method of using the digital technology. It’s all, old technology, traditional, out of date technology which I prefer to use. I do this because I get a better picture than a digital picture. I want to keep the tradition.
KD: How did you decide on the 20 images to use on the scarves?
HS: I chose from 200 hundred of them, so the best combination to choose from was a very difficult, difficult decision. It’s 20 different colors in editions of sevens, so it makes a total of 140 different scarves. I think that’s not a big number but not a small number, and I think it’s a comfortable number, 140.
KD: Had you printed your photographs on a material like silk before?
HS: No, this is the first experience for me. It’s not just a different material, but a different way of expression. I enjoyed myself. It’s beautiful and it’s a fashion. People can wear it and that makes me very excited.
KD: What do you think that will be like to see someone wearing your work?
HS: It’s art for a person to wear. You can design how you wear your scarf many different ways. There are four corners of different colors, so you can design which corner to be shown in the front and which corner in the back. It’s a totally different expression, so I enjoy watching people wear it.
KD: Do you have another project in fashion coming up?
HS: I have a project. I photographed the pictures of fashion from the 1920’s, Chanel and Dior, and I’m having a show in Tokyo at the Hara Museum. I photographed collections from the Kyoto Costume Institute. So probably I will continue this and study the form of the fashion.
This interview appeared in Whitewall’s fall 2012 Fashion Issue. The scarves are available for purchase at hermes-editeur.com through December 31st, 2012.