Mountains in Exile

Trees out of head, glazed terracotta, 30 x 37 x 24 cm © Leiko Ikemura 2015 Photo: J. v. Bruchhausen, Berlin

The Galerie Karsten Greve Paris is delighted to present Mountains in Exile, a new solo exhibition by Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura. Listing more than forty works and presented in parallel with the CERAMIX exhibition De Rodin à Schütte, which may be seen at La Maison Rouge and the Cité de la Céramique de Sèvres, this artistic promenade aims at highlighting the diversity of mediums employed. Bronze, terracotta, pastel on paper and oil on burlap are all techniques used by the artist.

The works on canvas invite the viewer to contemplation, offering a panorama of the Japanese countryside, while the sculptures in terracotta exalt a singular imagination, making particular reference to the intimate and the religious. Eminently poetic, suspended between the real and the ineffable imaginary, works by Leiko Ikemura are not without meaning and iconographic references.

The mountain is a recurring element in the artist’s paintings and drawings. Whether they are camouflaged by a thick fog or presented in the background in a bright atmosphere, they are the central subject of Ikemura’s compositions. Considered the original home of creation, the mountain symbolises the victory of life over death. The latter is also reflected in the artist’s sculptural practice with the work Memento Mori (2013) in particular.

After a figurative period, Ikemura began to devote herself to sculpture around 1984 to finally reinvent her painting from the mid-1990s. In these new paintings and works on paper, created between 2013 and 2015, she focuses mainly on the theme of Nature, while her sculptures and anthropomorphic ceramics celebrate the ever-evolving human figure. There are however no airtight compartments in Leiko Ikemura’s work, and the border between these universes is often tenuous or porous, evidenced especially by works such as Naked (2014), Tree and Blue Face (2014) or Mishima (2014) where man merges with nature.

The series of trees, made with tempera on burlap, recalls some of the work of Odilon Redon, notably in the use of a restricted, non-imitative colour palette. Red, grey and ochre bring dramatic touches to the compositions, in contrast to the meditative Japanese landscapes. A symbol of life par excellence, the tree is shown here in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty.

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