Gillian Jason Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Julia Bennett and Mizuki Nishiyama

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Gillian Jason Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Julia Bennett and Mizuki Nishiyama
Touch as Sight 2022 by Julia Bennett.

LONDON.- Gillian Jason Gallery launches ‘The Earth We Walk Upon | The Ancestors We Bring With Us’. American artist Julia Bennett and Japanese artist Mizuki Nishiyama remind us of our primal bond with nature through a selection of paintings, sculpture, and tapestries.

Earth exists as the carrier of deep time, its layers of soil become a portal into both the known and unknown. When we bury our hands in its flesh, we entangle ourselves in its history. Julia Bennett and Mizuki Nishiyama plunge into the shimmering underworld to unveil narratives whispered within, reviving the departed and reconstructing themselves in the process. Soil is animated through its metaphorical and physical incorporation into the artists’ work; in this process the life and dynamism of the natural world is not only unveiled, but brought to the forefront of the artistic discourse. In the words of author T. C. McLuhan:

“The earth is not a dead body, but is inhabited by a spirit that is its life and soul. All created things, minerals included, draw their strength from the earth spirit. This spirit is life, it is nourished by the stars and it gives nourishment to all the living things it shelters in its womb.” (The Ways of the Earth, 1994)

The world in which we live is an extraordinary entity that humanity has long enjoyed, for the smallest gifts of nature often have a significant effect on our frame of mind: from the whistling of a bird, to a gust of wind brushing our skin - unimposing but palpable. Yet, blinded by a consumerist ethos, we find ourselves increasingly disconnected from the natural world and its histories, desensitised to its fate, and taking an active role in its destruction. And so we ask, what can be recovered?

In 'The Earth We Walk Upon | The Ancestry We Bring With Us', Bennett and Nishiyama remind us of the primal bond between men and nature through the earth-bound rituals embedded in their practice. For both artists, earth itself is not only an integral part of their medium, but also a metaphorical passageway; a point of access to the past and to the future, a route of connection between creatures and through history, means for the exploration of trauma and remediation.

If earth is the medium, water becomes the reanimating force. In this, Bennett revives desecrated landscapes through the use of resuscitated clay, to which she confers new life in the form of pigment. Nishiyama, on the other hand, nourishes distressed shreds of fabrics by soaking them in Japanese teas after burning them and unearthing them from her paternal land.

Julia Bennett’s work is driven by the amnesia of our shifting landscape. Her practice is informed by the ghosts of many pasts and those that have yet to come. Using clay and natural materials, a sense of place is imbued into each work, connecting byegone to present. Just as we are inundated with mystery in a soundless wasteland or the reverberating forest, a faint obscurity settles within her work; an awareness that there are pieces which can never be fully known. To engage the land and her own practice of counter- desecration, Bennett studies bioremediation and works on long term projects to remember and restore endemic species in her home place of California, a land colonised and occupied to the point of near infertility. In gathering and using the materials derived from places of her own trauma, the defilement rooted deeper in the earth becomes evermore crucial. Caring for these spaces allows for healing towards a fertile future.

Mizuki Nishiyama’s production is focused on bridging the gap between her mixed cultural heritages - spanning from Hong Kong, to Japan, to Italy - reconciling her Westernised parents' teachings with the fundamentals of her Eastern roots. The textile installations exhibited in 'The Earth We Walk Upon | The Ancestry We Bring With Us' showcase her latest, most concrete means of bringing her Japanese heritage into contemporary Western discourse. The artist burns burlap, linen, cotton, synthetic fibres, and indigo-dyed textiles; she distresses the fabrics, naturally dyeing each piece in the wet ash of her paternal land. That Japanese soil opens up a conversation about generational trauma and is a means of access into Nishiyama’s ancestry, as her military ancestors have been continuously buried in it since the 1400's. Once retrieved from the ashes, Nishiyama weaves the pieces of fabric back together, rebuilding her story as a 21st Century mixed-Japanese woman: “I am simultaneously trying to embrace yet reconstruct the past, present and future.”

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