Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland opens at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
- Credit: María Rúnarsdóttir/Kate Wolstenholme
In her first UK exhibition, Japanese-Swiss artist Leiko Ikemura displays 50 works in her show Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland, which is on in Norwich until December.
The project is a collaboration between the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture and is set to celebrate this year's Olympics in Tokyo, exhibiting the work of an artist who transcends cultures of Europe and Asia.
Paintings, sculptures, drawings and photography spanning the last three decades of Ikemura's career adorn the Mezzanine Gallery in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, alongside new glass work created in lockdown.
As you walk into the exhibition you are consumed by femininity. The show begins with a series of paintings on girlhood, hung against a pink wall so pretty you are instantly drawn to the abstracted figures representing ideas of gender and nature, far bigger than the individual depicted.
Moving through, connectivity within nature dominates the show as Ikemura's work explores the eternal circle of life, addressing our current environmental crisis with an empathic tone.
Chief curator Tania Moore talks of how "you see these figures that morph into creatures, creatures morphing from landscapes. She sees commonalities across cultures and across landscapes."
Usagi, meaning ‘rabbit’ in Japanese, represents rebirth, fertility and renewal, a mystical motif which recurs throughout Ikemura’s work as she explores slow evolutionary change within living worlds.
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Speaking to me from Europe, Ikemura says: "Usagi is an important aspect, not only about the rabbit, but more about nature. It is about female figures and their representation direct to nature. In these times it is so important that we are now at the turning point and we have to rethink and give the value to other qualities that were not so clear until now."
Taking inspiration from a range of art history and practices such as modernism, romanticism and symbolism. Ikemura believes it is important to look at where we have come from, explaining it is less about history and more about origin.
Architect and partner to Leiko Ikemura, Philipp Von Matt designed the show, with the pair drawn to Norman Foster's iconic, world-renowned architecture.
The Mezzanine Gallery created the perfect setting for an exhibition so focused on connection that it flows organically between inside and out. Ikemura says how the space feels as though you are "between two worlds", just as the exhibition explores past and present, nature and human.
Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland is on at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from the 18 July – 12 December 2021 and is £8 to enter, £7 for concessions.