Head-turning self-portraits

Published on 4 October 2018

Artist Izumi Miyazaki’s bizarre self-portraits are an ironic invitation to the viewer to cut through the superficial and to know her intimately. (Photos: Izumi Miyazaki)

By Huang Lijie

Her surreal self-portraits have tickled, startled and stupefied many, but Japanese artist Izumi Miyazaki, 24, never intended for them to shock. Rather, they are a response to societal norms and the distance it drives between people.

The isolating horror of death, for instance, is dealt a darkly humorous blow by Izumi in self-portraits where she loses her head. In one, her head, with a fish balanced on top, are split down the middle cleanly. In another, her severed head lies on its side, and where her neck ends, plump, red, skinned tomatoes extend into a neat pool of ketchup.

An indelible scene in a TV drama of a man’s neck being cut triggered Izumi to make photos of her dismembered head.

The almost-but-not-quite gory pictures of her dismembered head were sparked by violence in the TV dramas she watches. Specifically, a scene of a man’s head being cut off, which left her feeling “so scared”. “I wanted to dispel this fear and grasp death as a comical thing, so I expressed them in such ways,” says the Imaging Arts graduate from Tokyo’s leading Musashino Art University.

Her photos are part of the group exhibition, Women in Photography, at the centre for photography and film, Objectifs. The show features works by female photographers that spotlight issues of politics, gender and identity in the societies which they live and work in.

Izumi realises her fantasy of climbing a rice ball mountain through her art.

Izumi’s self-portraits are not all perilously morbid or coloured by distressing recollections. Her photos which feature rice and rice balls, for example, spring from a love of the Japanese dietary staple. In one such photo, that affection takes the form of a mountainous triangular rice ball with Izumi at its peak, holding a high side-kick pose.

Her thought process in creating that eye-catching image: “The mountain is neat, like an artefact, or monument. And a rice ball looks like a mountain. And I thought it would be enjoyable to climb a rice ball mountain if I could.”

That art affords her an uninhibited space to express her individuality honestly and openly, and through photos that “aren’t usual”, is not lost on her.

She says: “I usually behave like a normal person because it is easier to live that way than to do whatever I like, or society won’t forgive me. But there is freedom in my brain. I can visualise whatever I like. I make them into photos.”

Izumi’s photos are not just about expressing herself; she also seeks to connect with others through her work.

Her self-expression, however, is not self-centred. Indeed, she seeks to connect with others through her enigmatic self-portraits, which often picture her unsmiling.

She explains: “If I smile, people may assume that I am feeling happy and they would stop imagining what my feelings might be.

“But my thoughts and feelings are complicated, and I think people might not understand my emotions easily, so I would like people to think about them.”

Yet she harbours no illusion of easily forming heart-to-heart connections with the masses. Clones are therefore a recurring motif in her photos.

She says: “If I had clones of myself, they would be the ones who sympathise with me best.”

 

To see Izumi Miyazaki’s photos, and to meet her in person at a talk, visit here for details.

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