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Leiko Ikemura is an internationally renowned artist whose work spans the genres of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and poetry. At the center of her work is an exploration of nature, the theme of femininity, and the cyclical rhythm of life and death.

Sich auf die Augen stützend, 1997, © Leiko Ikemura und VG Bild-Kunst, Foto Sabrina Walz
Sich auf die Augen stützend, 1997, © Leiko Ikemura und VG Bild-Kunst, Foto Sabrina Walz © Leiko Ikemura und VG Bild-Kunst, Foto Sabrina Walz

In her solo exhibition at the Georg Kolbe Museum, the artist, who has lived in Berlin since 1990, presents hybrid beings in flux between growth and decay and questions the forms of human existence.

The exhibition is primarily dedicated to Ikemura's sculptural work. The show features over 30 sculptures and selected paintings since the 1990s, including numerous recent works. Her works in ceramics, bronze, and glass attest to her multifaceted engagement with traditions of sculpture and its materialities.

Colorful surfaces and a sculptural language that oscillates between form and dissolution of form are typical elements of Ikemura's work, which brings European and East Asian cultures into conversation with one another.

The exhibition title, "Witty Witches," hints in a subversive and humorous way at the attractive yet off-putting power inherent in the creatures Ikemura has created and now populates the museum. In this, she brings landscape and human together in her figurative sculptures: Figures that transform into trees, personified animal forms, and heads that outgrow the earth show her ideal of a fusion of nature. The hybrid fantasy beings are always in a state of transition.

Ikemura also shows the process of transformation in her exploration of human development. Melancholy-looking girl figures that seem cocooned are in an open, amorphous formation due to missing body parts. A conclusion of existential change is described by her work "Memento Mori I":
a reclining ghost figure, dressed in an open robe, gives the visitor:s an insight into the inner emptiness of corporeality and brings the theme of transience into focus. The work is accompanied by a poetic film projection entitled "Pink Hair."

In recent years, the artist has expanded her repertoire of materials to include solid glass, thus introducing the possibility of transparency into her sculptures. As a symbol of the cycle of life, the artist groups glass works (2020-2022) in a circle in the basement, which, depending on the incidence of light, glow as if from within. Accompanied by paintings that also take up the theme of colored luminosity, Leiko Ikemura thus aims to create a cosmic atmosphere.

Ikemura, who was born in Japan, shows a utopian representation of shelter and care in her famous Usagi works, which were created in response to the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima: Three rabbit figures in the exhibition represent alternative guardian spirits according to Shintōist ideas.
Usagi double-headed Hōshi, the title of one work, combines the Japanese word for rabbit (Usagi) with the word for star (Hōshi). The size and posture, on the other hand, refer to the Christian iconography of the Mother of God offering protection under her mantle.  The usagi open up a spiritual dimension in Ikemura's work and also represent a universal symbolic figure of compassion.

Leiko Ikemura extends the exhibition space into the sculpture garden of the Georg Kolbe Museum. There, the connection of her art to nature can be experienced through the positioning of a work with a striking bronze patina among the sculptures of the museum's collection.
At the entrance to the Georg Kolbe Museum, the three-meter-high "Hasensäule III" (2021) welcomes visitors - a work that, in its combination of architectural element and organic form, points the way to the cosmos of the exhibition and Leiko Ikemura like a totem.

  • Curator: Elisabeth Heymer, scientific trainee at the Georg Kolbe Museum
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