Interview: Mika Nakamura-Mather
Luca Curci talks with Mika Nakamura-Mather during RITUALS, first appointment of the ANIMA MUNDI 2022, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Born in Fukushima in Japan, Mika studied at Toyo University, Tokyo before joining Japanese advertising agency Asatsu DK and later moving to London to work at Hakuhodo. She has been a resident of Australia since 2002, living in both Sydney and Brisbane. Mika holds a Doctor of Visual Arts degree from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane. Her work has been exhibited at solo and group exhibitions and International Biennales in Australia, Japan, Italy and Iran. As a Japanese national living and working in Australia, Mika’s work explores the concepts of home and belonging that lie at the heart of understanding our identity. From living and working in a different country to simply taking a holiday and finding yourself in a new location, memories of the past are the yardstick by which we measure our place in the present. Through the processes of object making, assemblage, installation and traditional painting and photography, her practice examines the connection we feel to a particular location, the cultural markers that define our understanding of home, and the immediacy and relevance of our personal memories.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Mika Nakamura-Mather – Art is a way of exploring who I am and my place in the world and sharing a dialogue with the viewer by evoking their own memories and experiences. Because my focus is on the idea of home and belonging, the act of creating a new work opens windows into history, culture, tradition, family and the everyday minutiae of life that makes us who we are. The time it takes to complete each work enables me to think more about these things and recognise their importance and significance.
LC – What are you currently working on?
MNM – I have just begun a new series of small scale works that I hope to finish in time for an exhibition in Melbourne later this year and I am also working on two large scale installation projects that address the experiences of myself and others during the pandemic.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
MNM – My themes are home and belonging, globalism and cultural diversity usually seen through the lens of memory. I don’t have a specific subject that I portray every time but I do like to like to incorporate traditional Japanese forms such as folding screens and specific materials such as timber. For me, few materials speak of Japanese culture as powerfully as timber – from the solid framework of a family home, to the statues of deities worshipped in temples and shrines, to craftwork items and daily goods made from bamboo, to the traditional wooden shoes called geta that are worn with the kimono, to delicate kyogi sheets made of pine or hinoki that were once used instead of paper for keeping records and are still used to wrap and preserve food, wood in all its forms has always been an integral part of Japanese life.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
MNM – Obviously, the emotionally and economically stressful times of a worldwide pandemic have affected art and artists all over the world. But I believe that at times like these, when travel has been restricted and our sense of isolation and distance is greater than ever, the connections and bonds that link us to who we are become even more important and vital if we are to maintain a sense of place and purpose. On an individual level the last couple of years have seen a reduction in the number of opportunities available to show new work, meet new people and share new ideas. But, despite the diminished government support for the arts that the pandemic has led to in many countries, art and artists continue to support and bolster the mental health and optimism of the public and demonstrate that there is more to life than lockdowns and closed borders. In many ways, I think it proves the need for art and artists to document, record and react to our experiences is greater than ever.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
MNM – The three miniature Japanese folding screens that I exhibited in Anima Mundi – Rituals in Venice are directly concerned with the connection between humans and place, and the interaction of experience and nature that informs our understanding of home. The festival’s theme of the secret force that permeates all elements of our planet is reflected in the depth of feeling we all feel for specific times and places.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
MNM – My message is simple, whether it is to a place, a person, an idea or something bigger and more intangible – we all need the reassurance and hope that a sense of belonging brings.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
MNM – I’d like to see individual shots documenting all the works in situ in the galleries. The opening event shots are fun and it’s great to see people enjoying the show but as an artist I am also interested in getting a better look at what my fellow practitioners have been up to. Like many of your international participants, I can’t visit every show in person so it would be nice to see more of the works themselves.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID Group?
MNM – ITSLIQUID provides artists from different backgrounds and cultures with an opportunity to exhibit together and to open their eyes to what others are achieving. As a practising artist it is all too easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your own work, ITSLIQUID helps remind us there is a whole world of ideas and creators out there.