Top image: Hajime Mizutani (Japan), Emiko Kato (Japan) and Maddi Nicholson (UK) in one of the former Customs cottages on Piel Island, 2007

Hajime Mizutani

Hajime Mizutani successfully applied to Art Gene’s Research Residency Programme through open submission. Mizutani’s works reflect forces of nature/unnature and the ways in which we interpret or experience the things around us. The selection panel were interested in Mizutani’s installation Endless Cemetery (pictured bottom of page) which seemed to evoke the natural and psychologically complex landscapes of Barrow and it’s islands. Whilst making his piece, Natural/Unnatural, Mizutani talked of nuclear explosions; something which haunts many of Barrow’s visitors, not least our Japanese artists in residence.


‘We all adapt to our environment and become desensitised to it. To some extent we become it.’

Stuart Bastik, Revisioning Utopia Discussion Paper


Sometimes fresh eyes bring something back to the fore for a second look, often the things which we have learned to live with, learned to ignore, or have become, warrant re-examination and provide the richest rewards. This can be an important function of the best collaborative practice and lies at the core of Art Gene’s enquiry.

Art Gene’s work increasingly engages with understandings of the complex and interdependant relationships between industry and nature characterised by numerous ‘collisions’ within Barrow-in-Furness and pretty much everywhere else… if we dare to look a little closer.

At some level a cauliflower, the human brain and a nuclear explosion have a similar logic, the beautiful can be ugly and the ugly beautiful this goes for thought as much as aesthetics. Our perceptions are reactions formed around ones experience, character and culture.

Art Gene seeks to created situations which propagate and nurture ‘possiblity’ by creating the conditions in which collisions of disciplines and cultures can occur within a constructive environment.


Image above: Natural/Unnatural (detail), Hajime Mizutani



Hajime Mizutani earned both a BFA and MFA from Tama Art University in Japan. In 2003, the artist was selected in  the Hachiouji City YUME Museum Art Competition in Tokyo and received the Kinin Art Award. Most recently, Mizutani was a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and his work has been reviewed in INAX ART NEWS.

Through his art, Mizutani seeks to express the energy that shapes mankind as natural phenomena. To this end, he seeks to share energy with others through his artwork, which largely consists of delicate paper-based sculptures, drawings and installations.


Artist Statement

Humans see “something” by letting an image of an object into their brain and collating it with fragments of stored memories and experiences that have accumulated throughout their life. Various fragments of memory together lead them to recognize what the object is. The act of seeing is completed once a meaning is applied to the object.

As is well known, the expression “déjà vu” refers to the sensation one experiences when feeling that something has been experienced before, although this is in fact, not the case. In pondering the characteristic features of the human act of seeing, it even seems to me that humans perhaps instinctively repeat the act with the desire to experience the feeling of déjà vu.

On my way home, I look up. In doing so, I notice “something” lying on the road 30 meters ahead of me. The object is “something,” not any other thing. My instincts instantly begin to infer what the object is; too fast for me to be conscious of it happening. I stop walking. In a mere second, I judge in the twilight that the object is a mongrel dog which has just been run over and is lying there, and I turn my face away. However, not being sure whether that information is correct, nor knowing why I averted my eyes from the object; I lift my head and look at it again. This time it changes into the form of a cat lying down taking a nap on the asphalt still warm from the day’s sun. In another second, it is a brown paper MUJI store carry bag and a crumpled Beaver Tozan flier.

This recognition of things, with its accompanying flashbacks of sensation and emotion, is similar to that in dreams. Dreams, in most cases, make me feel everything related to me much more realistically than in the real world. The flashback, or dream, is a succession of falling droplets of reality and emotion which are unfettered by the concept of time. I wonder if reality isn’t, in truth, merely the déjà vu of dreams which are fragmented, yet constantly falling into our conscious minds. 30 meters to “something”…

Hajime Mizutani has been working on a large scale drawing during his International Research and Development Residency, which consists of thirty pieces of paper, each measuring 42cm square. Mizutani uses countless hand strokes using pencils to create these atmospheric drawings capturing his momentary touches, marking his daily life in Barrow-in-Furness, such as breaths, physical and mental conditions, point by point. The thirty pieces of paper are re-arranged into a large rectangle with 7cm intervals between each intricate drawing.

When people view the drawing as a complete composition, they are captured by the monochrome phenomenon created within the drawing. The audience can survey Mizutani’s sensations and emotions encountered while spending two months at Art Gene in a spacious studio with high ceilings and large windows, the audience are encouraged to make their own conclusions of the drawing.

Image below: Natural/Unnatural, Hajime Mizutani

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