In today's interconnected world of Internet, digital cameras and advertisements, images of places and things are accessible at the click of a button. The inability to separate ourselves from these two dimensional images has driven Satoshi Watanabe to create works founded in the same concept of pixilated images. By tracing his works through the years, we are able to see how his works are in fact a social commentary on the immoderate impact digital imagery has on our lives today.
Japan's technological advances are arguably unrivaled by any other country. From cameras to cell-phones, every piece of equipment is not a single purpose machine; a camera can record videos and cell-phones allow you to browse the internet. This flexibility has allowed physically inaccessible, even remote destinations to be visually captured and circulated. By simply picking up a magazine or watching television from the comfort of our homes, we are now able to instantly recognize Ayers Rock (Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park -lot 628) as a site in Australia or the British Museum ( Beamed In and Beamed Out-lot 627) as the most important museum in London. This digital age pioneered by Japan has allowed the average person of any social strata to have 'visited' any of these world famous sites. Watanabe's dissected works reflect this new phenomenon through the highly objective and rational treatment of worldwide iconic sites, distinctive to a specific country. Particularly in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the progressive concentration of white dots in the center of the canvas immediately draws our attention to the distinctive colour of Ayer's Rock. The first exhibition of his work is unique in that the 'negative' image of the work was in fact transferred directly onto the gallery walls. Spreading the dots far and wide, the resulting image is powerful. It even looks as though the viewer is staring at a three dimensional, heavily pixelated image of Ayer's rock even though the landscape forms so subtly in front of our eyes. The vastly different size of the negative and positive image creates an illusion whereby the dots look as though they are slowly being pulled onto the central canvas by an invisible force. Despite our focus on the central, solid patch of colour, we must utilize the rest of the canvas and wall to decipher why Watanabe chose this particular site. Much like the photographic evidence a tourist inexplicably must take home from their vacation, many of Watanabe's works are of simplistic compositions of institutions and sights, only more conceptually abstract.
Watanabe's construction of his works is methodical and the result of his labor-intensive reproduction. First painting the canvas then obliterating 'pixels' of circular adhesive stickers onto yet another painted canvas, Watanabe purposefully fashions a negative and positive image. This exercise of duplication is manifested in both utilizing mass-produced cultural artifacts and in the pixilated circular adhesives to propose that culture has become an entity for consumption. Through Beamed In and Beamed Out, Watanabe uses miniscule white dots resulting in a highly digitalized image where even the pedimental sculptures can be deciphered. In selecting this museum, the artist suggests that as a museum is distinguished by an art collection, an artist grapples with the idea of a museum waiting to be collected as Art. Museums also preserve cultural entities such as paintings and vice versa. As such, this play between the various forms of 'collecting' compliments the idea of 'consumption'.
In Somewhere in Scotland I & II (lot 629) we are unpredictably faced with a potentially arbitrary place. There are two landmarks and surprisingly, they are not negative and positive images of a single landscape. Without the corresponding half,Scotland I and Scotland II can stand as individual deconstructed images of a typical landscape in Scotland. This early work is important for its clear experimentation of artistic methods and Watanabe's depicted subject. In the green landscape, we find that the size and colour of his 'dots' are equal, yet in the more desolate landscape, Watanabe utilizes alternating colours and square pieces. Takarazuka Grand Theatre (lot 625) and Garden Pier (lot 626), both also executed in 1996 are similarly experimental. Lacking a counterpart image and composed of ovals of sporadic shape, size and placement in fact show less of the overall landscape. We as viewers seem to be looking through a torn material which covers our eyes.
In Taj Mahal(lot 630) we find that Watanabe uses cross-shaped adhesives rather than round ones. It stylistically stands just betweenSomewhere in Scotland I and II and Takarazuka Grand Theatre as this is a single image but of evenly sized and spaced stickers. There is no formula of dots and its colours that Watanabe uses in every piece, despite the identical process in the materialization of his paintings. Viewing these several pieces in succession we are able to follow the measured and continuing technical and visual experimentation Watanabe instigates. Coincidentally this progression runs parallel to the numerous technological innovations we are experiencing today, perhaps provoking future advances in Watanabe's works too.