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Mizuki Nishiyama: Seiza, Transgressing the Seated Body
24 March - 8 AprilFree
a|n Gallery proudly presents “Seiza: Transgressing the Seated Body”, a solo exhibition of ten paintings by Mizuki Nishiyama, from 24 March to 8 April 2022. This young artist draws strengths and inspirations from her mixed cultural background to explore the fragility of human condition, especially of the female body.
Born to Japanese and Hong Kong Chinese parents, Nishiyama spent her childhood bouncing between different cities in Asia and Italy before moving to New York, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Parsons School of Design. Deeply influenced by her multicultural heritage, Nishiyama is acutely aware of the constrictions imposed on young Asian women—whether culturally, socially, or politically. In her work, the artist delves into her roots to examine the anxiety and fragility she experiences; she then expresses her comments in a bold visual language. As Nishiyama describes, painting is a chaotic yet meditative process that allows her to make sense of life’s more tempestuous moments.
In her latest collection, “Seiza: Transgressing the Seated Body”, Nishiyama uses the traditional seated position of “seiza” as a symbol. The “seiza” position is a proper sitting position in Japan, where one sits on folded legs with palms modestly facing down. This represents respect and compliance with social decorum—behaviour that is required in Japanese society. In “Sitting, Waiting”, Nishiyama uses expressive crimson strokes to depict a female figure in the “seiza” position, in a way that is proper yet inviting. It evokes a strong desire to liberate the female body from the confinements of tradition and modern gender politics.
In “Splice”, two gender-neutral figures are conjoined in the “seiza” position on a “chabudai”, a short-legged table used to serve tea in Japan. Nishiyama explains the use of the “chabudai” symbol: “The gender-neutral figures give a strong sense of compassion and tenderness through the gentle clutch of their hands. With the nether regions facing towards each other, the figures are shown in a vulnerable state. Their placement on a “chabudai” suggests they are being served or gazed upon. There is also a Japanese term “chabudai gaeshi”, which means the act of violently upending the table as an expression of anger, frustration and disapproval. To me, this is an action that underlines the fragility and expectations of Asian masculinity. ”
The colour red is dominant in “Seiza”, which is Nishiyama’s second show in Hong Kong. She uses bold, vibrant red paints and slightly grotesque figures to create a powerful visual narrative of her consciousness of the female body. Nishiyama adds an intimate personal touch to works like “Okasan” (meaning mother), in which she explores her close relationship with her mother— who herself is a competent painter. In other works, like “When in Kyoto”, she takes an emotional journey to the heart of family, history and nostalgia.
ABOUT THE ARTIST / ORGANISERMizuki Nishiyama has held a number of solo exhibitions throughout her career. These include “Shunga” (2020) at Whitestone Gallery, Hong Kong, “An Exploration of Human Fragility: Love & Lust” (2020) at the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, and “脆い Moroi: An Exploration of Human Fragility” (2019) at Greenpoint Gallery, New York.
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