Wood (cedar), Resin

Exhibited for the solo exhibition 'Transient Traces' @ Shiseido Gallery  資生堂ギャラリー (8.Apr - 21. May 2023 )

写真提供:株式会社 資生堂  /  撮影 : 加藤健
Courtesy of Shiseido Company, Limited  /  Photo by Ken Kato








 The idea for Physis came from the modes of storing human remains seen in various religions, such as Christian relics, or the ashes of the Buddha, in this case enclosing the cedar wood brought back from Ohkute Shinmei shrine. Physis is a Greek word that translates as “nature” and was deemed the opposite to human endeavors such as logos (language, logic) and nomos (custom, law). Humanity’s move away from first-hand experience of the currents and transformations of the natural world, and toward a scientific stance of empirical explanation,became increasingly pronounced with the appearance in the 17th century of the word “physics,” derived from physis.

On July 11, 2020, a sacred tree at Okute Shinmei Shrine in Okutecho, in the city of Mizunami, Gifu, was toppled in a night of torrential rain. This giant cedar, ancient symbol of Okute, a town that looks much the same as when it marked the 47th station on the Nakasendo route linking Nihonbashi in Tokyo, and Sanjo-Ohashi in Kyoto, somehow avoided nearby homes and came to rest without injuring a single person. Some months after the cedar’s collapse I visited the location, returning a number of times, and on December 17 recorded the tree in photographs and a 3D scan, which I developed into Transient Traces based on those materials later.

On visiting Okute once more to see the rebuilt shrine in October 2022, I learned from a local resident of some debris remaining from the cedar, and obtained permission to take a number of pieces home with me. The works ‘Physis’ were made using those pieces of wood. Visible in the fragments of fallen tree, are traces of the flow of life. When I was gathering up the pieces to take home, the arborist told me about the calluses that grow on trees to cover damage. Observing the traces of such action by the tree left me in awe of the power of nature, and with a visceral sense of the dynamism of life and death. 

In-between the way of seeing as an object of worship deeply rooted in local culture and as a substance through scientific gaze, the invisible such as people’s memories and customs flow into the object, forming a new relationship between us and the object.





16th shiseido art egg Soma Sato Exhibition : Transient Traces /  Artist Talk (@Shiseido Gallery)

第16回 shiseido art egg 佐藤 壮馬展 : おもかげのうつろひ / アーティスト・トーク (資生堂ギャラリー)  

映像提供:株式会社 資生堂  /  映像 : 西野正将
Courtesy of Shiseido Company, Limited  /  Film by Masanobu Nishino