Hiraki Sawa: Modern Surrealism

Hiraki Sawa is a London-based, Japanese video artist whose work is bringing surrealism into the new millennium.

His works explore psychological landscapes, and interweaves domestic and imaginary worlds. Sawa works with animation to create powerful video environments that grew from small videos he would put online into massive, immersive video installations.

Sawa first gained popularity with a series of short animated videos of planes flying around his London flat. “When I first moved to London from Japan, I just really liked planes. I would go back to the airport and look at the planes. It was beautiful for me,” explains Sawa. “At the time I was spending a lot of my time at home, trying to finish my university studies. I started thinking about how we border off our flats. We have a separate space for eating, for sleeping, for showering. And we have to travel from space to space. So I brought the planes into the flat. They are like little characters taking trips to and from the different spaces in my flat. That’s where the idea came from.”

Many of Sawa’s works take place within domestic settings. Inanimate objects become characters; a bathroom sink turns into an exotic oasis. What is real, and our experience of reality is thrown off traditional expectations and rhythm.

The works also take on a psychological element. They invite the viewer to think about their own memories, hopes, and how they interact with their daily routines and stresses.


Trail, 2005

“I love time. Controlling time is a really fascinating experience for me. I want to bring out and recreate the space and time which exists in my head. That’s the thing I want to express,” says Sawa. “I live in a flat in London, but inside me all these other things are also living at the same time. And I want to bring them out, and merge them with what’s actually around me.”

Sawa was born in Japan, and immigrated to London, England to attend University College, London to earn his Masters of Fine Arts.

However, he always had an interest in art. Initially he studied sculpture, and created stationary pieces that followed a similar motif as his current work. “I first did animation when a friend asked me to help him finish a film he was working on. I had never done it before, so I just taught myself and I worked with the computer, and it was really fun to do,” explains Sawa. “After that project, I just carried on. It was amazing. Once I started using moving images, I could express myself really clearly. It’s like my hand and my heart are so connected when I’m animating.”

Since then Sawa’s works have been on display in art galleries around the world, and are permanent public installations around the UK and Japan. His most recent work is entitled Figment, and is a collection of increasingly more surreal videos. Like many of his previous works it deals with the theme of memory; more specifically memory loss. It takes on the perspective of a man struggling to process his amnesia, and to experience the world around him. Sawa based this work on a friend going through that very struggle. “Looping, meditative acts of repetition, patience and close observation are essential tools in understanding the way that memory works,” explains Sawa. The work explores the tricks memory can play; how time has speed and can progress at different speeds; and the emotional cues of random objects.


Figment , (2013)

To learn more on Hiraki Sawa’s work please visit his website.

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