MIZUKI x RISA VENEZIA
Mizuki is a London-based artist with mixed Japanese, Hong Kong, and Italian heritage.
Her art draws inspiration from the East and West to bridge together her multiple cultural heritages. Coming from a family of artists, Mizuki’s art is entrenched in her identity and roots, transmitting the same passion and love for art as her parents and grandmother. In an article in Vogue Hong Kong, she explains the importance that her family has on her art: “Everything I have is attributed to my family… I [learned] the art of being unapologetic, fierce, and empathetic through my mother in the way she handles her oil paints; my father, who has two sides: one where he’s extremely detailed oriented through Alta Moda designs, and the other that’s spiritual and primal from playing the Flamenco guitar; my grandmother discerned respect, the abstraction of time, and unity through her Nihonga paintings and Koto.”
Mizuki’s art is abstract, vivid, and raw, using multiple different types of media, like oil, charcoal, ink, and sculpture, forcing the viewers to face her past traumas and ongoing anxieties; she juxtaposes opposing entities between violence and tenderness, death and vitality, and the East and the West. She never wants to avoid a topic because it is taboo, instead, she wants to showcase it and disregard preconceived notions of what's right or wrong to be exhibited or addressed publicly. In this way, Mizuki’s work can be seen as a sense of rebellion. She depicts the violence of menstruation, along with the irony of impurity and how the feminine experience is both grotesque and beautiful, through her tapestry Kami.
Recently Mizuki Nishiyama had an exhibition with Julia Bennett, called: “The Earth We Walk Upon, The Ancestors We Bring Us”. They were featured in the women-focused Gillian Jason Gallery in London, aiming to create a connection with their past, present, and future through nature and an “exploration of trauma and remediation.” During this exhibition, RISA VENEZIA’s founder, Beatrice Fontana, met Mizuki and shared their common interests through their art and questions of identity. Mizuki wore RISA pieces in front of her art to showcase the parallelisms between their work. Mizuki elaborates on the collaboration: “Both of our works share a similarity in destruction and construction. Whether it is conscious or mending pieces together. My tapestries follow a sewing and mending process called boro and sashiko which is traditionally a way to put together rags and sew them back up stylistically. That’s quite similar to your concept too.” RISA is based on upcycling furniture fabric, offering this similar idea of destruction and construction; RISA deconstructs old ways of functioning and reimagines a new circular model in the fashion industry that is based on reusing pre-consumer waste. In addition, like Mizuki, RISA draws inspiration from the East and West through the rich history that the textiles hold. The Marco Polo collection, in particular, incorporates influences of Eastern styles and shapes on Venetian patterns, revealing this complex history and tradition.
Mizuki makes textile installations to mimic Japanese Boro and Sashiko methods where she is burning and distresses burlap, linen, cotton, and indigo-dyed textiles to embrace the reconstruction of the past, present, and future. Boro is reworking and repairing textiles through patching to extend their use. Sashiko is embroidering as a decorative or functional way to reinforce clothing. In this way, Mizuki is embodying RISA’s roots in upcycling and giving textiles a new walk of life to last longer and bring new meaning—both reusing waste to create art and joy. In particular, Boro is very similar to what RISA does, as Beatrice says “I keep even the smallest pieces because I like to radically challenge the concept of disposability. Just like you use visual components such as the indigo to reflect the past, the ancient textiles carry a rich history narrated methodically with every thread that composes the patterns.” Mizuki believes that “Tapestry making is a meditative practice,” and to that Beatrice says that “this is what art and fashion are: they are both tools that can help us tap into our deepest self. Utilizing the material to tap into the immaterial”.
There were many parallels between RISA and Mizuki’s art. The artists’ Kan’nabi tapestry is a stark example of their parallelisms. Kan’nabi refers to the mountain Gods which ties in with Mizuki’s ink paintings since she blends landscapes with bodies, in an erotic way. She uses indigo denim which is the traditional color used with Boro and Sashiko, usually recycled from furniture; this reflects RISA’s similar intentionality because she is using ancient textiles to narrate a rich history that is sewed in and maintained in time by the patterns themselves. In addition, Mizuki created a half-moonlike shape at the bottom of her tapestry to symbolize the umbilical nature of life and a “female embrace.” The tapestry itself is heavy and held by weak threads, meaning that “If one breaks all hell breaks loose,” thereby symbolizing the internalized pain in womanhood.
Beatrice also conveys the duality of womanhood in RISA’s designs: women embody a lot of dichotomies, they can be very caring and soft but also hold so much strength within them. RISA’s designs are meant to hug you and make you feel comfortable, but also redefine what it means to be feminine and sexy. Beatrice, in a conversation with Mizuki, says “I love that you touch upon the ambivalent nature of violence and nurture with respect to womanhood. That is something that I try to convey in my designs too: they are very rich and potent, yet they are welcoming to the body. Femininity and sensuality is an energy that resides on both ends of the spectrum- both in more revealing aesthetics but also in the more comfortable feel given by oversized clothing. Us women embody many dichotomies but society tries to encage women in static categories. You can see that in nature—mothers are so tender to their babies yet show incredible strength and courage when their offspring are threatened.” Mizuki answered “I absolutely love that dichotomy between nurture and also grotesque. That’s what the entirety of my bust is about too. I think your brand dances with that interplay of ideas so very well.”