Leiko Ikemura: Anima Alma
Works 1981 – 2022
About the Artist
Leiko Ikemura is a Japanese born / Berlin based painter and sculptor, and has had a highly acclaimed five-decade career in Europe and Asia. Ikemura departed from Japan in 1972 to study art in Seville, Spain, before moving to Switzerland in 1979, and then settling in Germany in 1991. Like her European peers Marlene Dumas (b. 1953) and Miriam Cahn (b. 1949), Ikemura invokes the age-old authority of representational oil paint to address contemporary matters of social justice, ecology, ancient folktales, and the sublime.
Ikemura’s works show representations of women, which have been central to Ikemura’s practice since the beginning of the 1980s. Early paintings, pastels, and drawings demonstrate the tough Expressionist roots of her style and approach to subject matter, which first brought her acclaim in Switzerland and Germany. In the early 1990s, Ikemura began to explore ceramic sculpture using rough clay formed by hand, colorfully glazed, and then fired in a kiln. Reminiscent of both Japanese Haniwa figures and Western medieval carvings, these incised and ruggedly-built heads, torsos, dwellings, and symbolic forms continued to embody the directness and raw vitality of Ikemura’s early spirit, while a transition was occurring in her painting.
While there are references to the German Romantic tradition in her works, it is important to acknowledge that Ikemura grew up nearby the Ise Jingu shrine in Mie Prefecture; which is the sacred and spiritual home of Japanese Shinto. Ikemura states that her hope is “to visualize the cosmos beyond time and border, beyond gender, and to accentuate the vulnerabilities and the strength of female beings and nature.” The transparency of the glass and the translucent ethereality of Ikemura’s brushwork underlines an existential blurring of the distinction between being and non-being, and organic and inorganic matter; reflecting the animism of Shinto and the Buddhist inflected philosophy of the great Japanese thinker Kitaro Nishida.
over the past two decades we have discussed your work at your studio now and then, as well as presenting our dialog several times in public, and now you have asked me to write about your work. But speech and text are different forms, and to be honest …
Of three metamorphoses of the spirit I have told you: how the spirit became a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, -finally, a child.-
Thus spoke Zarathustra. And at that time he sojourned in the town that is called: The Motley Cow.
The Elemental World of Leiko Ikemura
It is important to single out strong artists who don’t fit into any stylistic category, but whose work challenges our assumptions regarding art history, and both the modern and contemporary tendencies to develop overarching narratives that influence our understanding as well as cloud our perceptions of art. In standing apart from the dominant creative and critical trajectories, the work of these artists enables us to shed the habits of looking for the more engaged act of seeing freshly. Leiko lkemura is such an artist. She paints in oil, draws in various mediums, including …
Poems for Leiko
Today the sun is a cloud, sprouting green hair
A waterlogged mast, rises from mist
They meet in a room, best described as anonymous
In a darkened room, a different room
pierced by a beam of light, scrutinizing reflections
rows of empty faces, not looking back
they believe the words, birds form in the sky
possess human faces, Is that who is peering down
from crenellated clouds, Is that who is just now
stepping out of the clock to sing, Today a blue flower ascends
through layers of a fiery lake, Today they meet in a room
best described as synonymous, These are pictures of things
they do not see on the wall, before them
ghostly songs haunting the stories, they try again and again to tell