Interview – Saki & Bitches

I was first introduced to Saki & Bitches art, while wandering around Shoreditch looking at street art for the day back in 2018. I can remember falling in love with the bright colours and this curvaceous woman painted boldly. Long flowing orange hair which sang out a message to me of strong female imagery. That night I jumped on instagram to see what else this artist who had stuck in my mind had done, and I found a portfolio of work that included amazing women of all shapes and sizes lounging around naked, or in kink wear, and since that moment, I was hooked to her work.

Since then, I have avidly followed her work, and eventually starting chatting to this amazing person. I have seen her work go from strength to strength and I am more often than not, blown away by her end results.

I feel super lucky to have done this interview with her, as it has given me a completely new insight into her work.

Your street art is amazing.  How did you get into the street art scene? 

Thank you!  I would love to do more again, but these days I’m mainly staying inside and painting… I’m just a massive house cat.

It was totally random, I moved to London 11 years ago, got my bicycle straight away and that got stolen in a month so I needed a new one.  My flatmate at the time introduced me to his friend who had a second-hand bike, so I visited his studio just off Brick Lane.  I met this guy, who is now my best friend actually, he is an amazing artist and I met all of his studio mates, everyone was making something cool, either painting, sculpture, music, or some electrical installation etc.. and it was super inspiring.  I made friends there so I visited almost every day just hanging around, then naturally just seen a lot of street art in East. So I thought, oh let’s just make little stickers and put them around. I never thought I wanted to do some street art or any art, just fooling around at first, to be honest. It naturally got bigger than just stickers. That’s how it started.

Your work puts together a juxtaposition of cultures and religions seamlessly and in a fun and naughty way.  How do you manage to stay true to your own culture/beliefs while incorporating those of others that you encounter? 

I guess I don’t particularly care or put some weight on staying true to my own culture/belief because I don’t have that in the first place.  I think Japanese have strong moral codes or rules to live in their society but don’t have any strong religious belief or even general religiousness, so as I grew up in Japan, naturally, I don’t have any religious belief.  Also, I think because of my mother I really didn’t strictly follow those moral codes either. I feel Japanese folks really like and want to keep everything in order and in harmony which is nice but at the same time, if you are in the wrong tone, people would judge you or make you feel a little shame.

My mum taught me that it’s a bit silly to do or say something because society expects you to do so. She’s great, she let me do most of the things without restrictions when I was a child, then I guess that’s how I’m quite open to a lot of things that interest me and made me explore.  I always wanted to go out of Japan and see different things, meet new people! Even though I’ve been painting a lot of pieces that are Japanese-themed, I don’t actually have a national or cultural pride or feeling of belonging in that culture. To me, any subjects are just interesting topics and because I don’t have that strong emotional connection to religious beliefs or certain cultures, It really fascinates me to see how other people influence by it. This sounds rude to some but I think it’s quite funny and really interesting to me that just some icon could make someone’s emotion move so much. I think it’s bonkers and I love funny and bonkers stuff so I could just mix and mash anything I think interesting, including cultural or religious icons sometimes, when I do paint non-japanese theme stuff. 

For the Japanese geisha/yujo paintings, I just want to capture the beauty and sorrow of the ancient sex workers of Japan and to pay tribute to them. It didn’t need to be Japanese, I just happened to know their history and it inspired me so much, I want to carry on painting them.

Geisha girls are a huge part of your art, and they display a certain elegance and style perhaps with a seedier underbelly – is this your intention? 

Yes, if you could see that I’m pleased! Geisha or more accurately called Yujo in Japan(Geisha didn’t/don’t sell sex and Yujo does but I sometimes call them Geisha as well as it’s easier for people to know what I’m talking about) history is really sad but historically very fascinating. When I start talking about their story… it’s always going to be a long one… because I’m super passionate about their story! They were young girls, as teenagers. Most of the cases sold by families who were poor farmers in the countryside or a father of the failed business owner etc. Pimps knew where to get those girls so they visited villages and bought off from families and took them to Tokyo or big cities, with fake promises like she will eat well and dress well and she will marry some rich guy. Most of the time those girls living in brothels and it was hard.

On top of the sex work which they had not agreed to in the first place, a brothel wouldn’t feed them properly, the dresses you needed was not given, they were loaned from the owner so Yujo girls had to pay back from their wages, also girls had to pay back the money that the pimp paid to their families so technically no way to make money or live properly. Hard work plus STD, bad aborting practices, and punishments when they broke stupid brothel rules, by the time they finish their 10 years contract, they were absolutely broken. So most of them either died before 10 years or once finishing they had a lifetime of misery..

Only a few top courtesans would have been able to buy proper meals to feed themselves and marry to a rich guy, even then they wouldn’t live long due to their poor health. But, they were respected in the Edo period.

Normal citizens were praising them, idolising them, girls in town imitated Yujo’s hairstyles. Every time the brothel did the parade with Yujo, everyone came to see them.  Yujo had to be educated for so many things like general manners, poetry, singing, and political matters, etc..  If that Yujo went to the top of her game, even the rich and powerful guys wouldn’t be allowed to talk to her directly. Yujo had to know how to play games to keep those good customers entertained to come and spend money.

Those respects would’ve been not that much as they were not allowed to have an actual boyfriend or live just normal young lives.

So… I always imagine… how their lives were, and try to visualize not only their outside beauty but also their emotions.

It made me think some of the modern prostitutions that participants are not agreed to are the same tricks as 400 years ago in Japan so there is an extra feeling added to the piece too.

Where do you draw your inspirations from? 

It changed slightly since 4 months ago but it’s been mainly some historical or religious stories, myths, and mix with some sexual fantasies which are fading a bit these days, to be honest. Now days, I am more interested in everyday life moments and just random people’s faces and what I feel at that moment.

What is your favorite piece that you have created?

Hmmm… it’s really difficult to pick. 

I always find something that I’m not satisfied with the piece I created… Usually a little bit frustrated about the gap between my imagined vision and the actual result. I couldn’t quite articulate with my skills yet. But I think one from the first solo show in my studio, Red-haired woman, and the latest oil painting Drew, those 2 are pretty similar to what I wanted to paint in my head.

Finally – what exciting things do you have in the pipeline?   

1st, my first limited edition card set will be released. 

25 of my studies I’ve done recently which I painted and drew with no particular plans but focused on trying some new styles, themes, or technics. I just made a prototype and it’s really lovely, I don’t feel like this satisfied with my product/merch so I can’t wait to show it to people! And 2nd, it’s still a bit of a secret in a way, only because I don’t know how to explain or the right way to introduce it, but it’ll be my personal project about my experience. 

As I mentioned, I used to inspired by a lot of modern or old pop icons and having fun with them but nowadays I started to really understand why I am the way I am and realised that my own feelings could be the source of my creations. If I could make my certain experience to my paintings I think it’s really interesting and good for my own sake too.

So we will see…

I find it amazing, that Saki is so talented, for someone that hadn’t even considered art as an option previously.

I can also say, I am lucky enough to own her set of 25 prints, and it is such an amazing set. Currently there are still some available on her website, which, if you appreciate the work, I recommend viewing.

The piece that I am always drawn back to is this:-

Mikaduki2020

I believe that the passion Saki has for this subject really shines through the work, and seeing what she has said on the Geisha/Yujo really enhances my enjoyment of this piece.

I really love the setting of this piece. The dark background against the pale skin of the woman. The iconic hairstyle framing a face that looks disillusioned as she stare as a gold melting moon. Her clothing is falling off her, giving the mere hint of a nipple, indicating that she is part of the oldest profession.

I find the moon interesting in this piece, as symbolically, it usually means disillusionment and fraudulent activity, due to the fact that many illicit dealings can happen within the shadows of the night. Here it echoes the feeling that the woman’s dreams have been broken through the poor treatment of being sold to a brothel. She is part of the sex trade, and owes money to all involved in putting her there. The moon light highlighting her beautiful yet saddened face. The moon melting, is like she is watching her dreams melt away with each passing night.

I love this painting, despite the illicit and abusive undertones, as it reminds me not to judge a book by its cover, look deeper that the beauty that you are confronted with.

If you would like to see more of Saki’s work you can find it here or you can find her on Instagram – @sakiandbitches

What do you think of this work? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?

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