"I'm not very good at talking about my work," the artist says apologetically. "I see things in a purely visual way."
Sawa's new film, Lenticular, goes on show from today at Dundee Contemporary Arts alongside other works dating to 2003 in what is his largest exhibition in the UK. His mainly monochromatic videos and animations are quietly mesmerising. Hypnotic even. He laughs when I tell him his 2003 work, Airliner, lulled me to sleep when I watched it online (in my defence, it was very late at night).
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In this breakthrough video, made the same year Sawa - born in Ishikawa, Japan, in 1977 and now living in London - gained a Masters degree in sculpture from Slade School Of Fine Art, slow-motion model planes criss-cross in the air within a domestic setting. Plane spotters in Puffa jackets holding flasks, zoom lenses and binoculars are corralled in a kitchen sink or on top of an electrical power box. There is a Zen-like sense of expectation never realised. As viewers, we are watching the watchers, all specks in a shrinking universe.
The process of humans looking on and looking out lies at the heart of his work. In his creations, familiar things perform unbelievable, beautiful acts; toy aeroplanes take off into domestic flight paths, vinyl records unravel and clocks and teapots grow legs.
The exhibition title, Lenticular, stems from a print process that has fascinated Sawa since a recce visit to Dundee last year. A lenticular print is made when a lens is superimposed over a composite of multiple images creating an illusion of movement and depth as it is viewed from different angles.
"The curator here, Graham Domke, mentioned this process to me and the idea stayed with me," explains Sawa. "The animation within it is what really interests me. I have done one lenticular print for this exhibition, but it is not related to the new film work I made about the observatory here in Dundee. In the film, I use light coming through a telescope into the planetarium. I like the idea of receiving light into the building and reflecting it out."
Inspired by Robert Law, the self-taught astronomer whom Sawa met at the Observatory, the work is a loose portrait of the man, the building and the planetarium in which the astronomer describes the stars in the night sky. Featuring a soundtrack by BUN (Fumitake Tamura), a classically trained musician who draws on hip hop, electronic, dub, jazz and drone noises, Sawa constructs his own planetarium in which a component of this two-screen work is projected.
Sawa has also used the lenticular process to create a two-part study of the aurora borealis shot on location in Northern Canada, close to the Arctic Circle. He has manipulated footage to create a perfectly symmetrical mirror image of the night sky. This beautiful short video depicts the progress of the northern lights as they move across a starlit sky, and is complemented by a series of photographs compiled into one monochrome lenticular edition by DCA Print Studio.
The exhibition also includes a selection of Sawa's earlier video and animation work. Lineament (2012) raises questions about memory, fiction and reality. Based on the experiences of a friend of the artist who suffered from amnesia, the motif of an unravelling vinyl record captures the uncertainty of remembered experience. This work is accompanied by a score, composed by Dale Berning and Ute Kanngiesser, pressed on to vinyl playing constantly in the gallery.
Another film, Unseen Park (2006), was made with the assistance of nine Taiwanese children who imagined being transported by make-believe vehicles. Again, music plays a key role and Unseen Park is accompanied by a music box soundtrack by Dale Berning.
Also on display is Airliner, the early work that lulled me almost to sleep. Hypnotic Hiraki Sawa's work is. Boring it is not.
Hiraki Sawa: Lenticular, Dundee Contemporary Arts (01382 909900, www.dca.org.uk) until January 5