Leiko Ikemura – Motion of love. Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle, Netherlands

Leiko Ikemura, Yellow Figure with Hummingbird, 2020, cast glass, 34 x 33 x 13 cm, Courtesy the artist
Lisbeth Thalberg

Motion of Love is Leiko Ikemura’s first institutional solo exhibition in the Netherlands and presents a body of work, which collectively reflects the artist’s engagement with material, poetry and notions of space. The exhibition takes its title from the artist’s experience that in essence we are all connected. Expanding on this sentiment, Leiko Ikemura creates her own universe, inhabited by girl- and animal-like hybrid figures, concerning life and death, femininity and nature. Motion of Love brings together work from the 1980s to the present in varied materials: bronze, terracotta, glass, paintings, drawings, film and photography. The diversity of materials attests to the interdisciplinary nature of the artist’s practice, informed by her itinerant travels and belief that art is in a constant process of becoming.

Leiko Ikemura, Brave Girl in Orange, 2022, tempera & oil on nettle, 150 x 110 cm, Courtesy the artist
Leiko Ikemura, Brave Girl in Orange, 2022, tempera & oil on nettle, 150 x 110 cm, Courtesy the artist

Early works in the exhibition include paintings, drawings and never-before-seen chemigrams, which show the expressionist roots of Ikemura’s style; direct, powerful and clear. The exhibition also features Ikemura’s early and recent ceramic sculptures. The hand-formed, colourfully glazed, to some extent rough clay figures, embody the directness and raw vitality of Ikemura’s early artistic attitude, reminiscent of both Japanese Haniwa figures and Western medieval carvings.

A distinct stylistic change can be seen in the series of paintings Ikemura began in the 1990s and is still working on, titled Girls. These paintings are also a veiled critique of the depiction of the female figure as passive and voiceless in visual art. For her Girls Ikemura started using a new palette, technique and materials. The paintings are life-size and confrontational, evoking both elation and compassion.

In addition to the exhibition at Museum de Fundatie Zwolle, bronze sculptures by Leiko Ikemura can be seen in the sculpture garden of Kasteel het Nijenhuis in Heino / Wijhe. 

One is the Usagi Greeting (2023), one of Ikemura’s iconical motifs. Her hybrid creature with rabbit ears and a human face acts as a symbol of universal mourning, which she first created in 2011 in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and the subsequent reported birth defects in animals. By questioning cycles of creation and destruction Ikemura shares through this image her concerns for the future of our planet at a time when natural habitats are increasingly threatened. 

Leiko Ikemura. Photo Xin Tahara, Tokyo Art Beat
Leiko Ikemura. Photo Xin Tahara, Tokyo Art Beat
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Journalist and artist (photographer). Editor of the art section at MCM. Contact: art (@) martincid (.) com
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