After leaving Japan in 1972, Leiko Ikemura (born in Tsu Mie) has lived and worked in several European cities, moving from Spain to Switzerland and Germany. Since the 1980s, the artist has developed a vast oeuvre of paintings, works on paper and sculptures, combining Far-Eastern influences, like an animistic apprehension of the world, with her artistic position clearly shaped by a European point of view. Throughout the different media, her works are always determined by ambiguity and impalpability.
The mysterious beings appearing in Ikemura’s works are often rooted in Japanese mythology and depicted in states of transformation, floating between nature, animal and human shape. In terra cotta or bronze sculptures as well as in works on canvas or paper, human bodies oscillate with the landscape, rocks show anthropomorphic traits – often only visible at second glance – or trees grow on peacefully resting heads.
In her paintings, especially the ‘Horizons’, Ikemura reaches a level of simplicity and emptiness that stems from Far-Eastern landscape art and creates spaces of memory and imagination. In her exhibitions these landscape paintings, together with sculptures, are always entering an equal dialogue and merge together into wondrous worlds, almost like in a theatre setting.
Between 1990 and 2015, Ikemura taught as a professor at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. Since 2014, she has been teaching at the Joshibi University of Art and Design, Kanagawa, Japan. Her work is part of institutional collections, including those of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Art Museums of Basel, Bern and Zürich; as well as the National Museum of Modern Art and the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. In 2019, the Kunstmuseum Basel and the National Art Center of Tokyo dedicated comprehensive solo exhibitions to the artist.