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Art Watch : Manabu Ikeda

Manabu Ikeda is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Manabu Ikeda is known for his trademark style. He employs techniques from traditional Japanese painting traditions such Sumi-e, Suibokuga and the Kano school’s style to name a few. Then he combines them with topographic-surreal landscapes to give us vast and detailed visuals that are overpowering and overwhelming. The greatest example of Ikeda’s practice is his 3.5 year meditation on the devastating Tōhoku earthquake in Japan. Titled “REBIRTH” the work began in earnest in 2013 and was completed in 2016. This 13 foot by 10 foot canvas was displayed at the Chazen Museum of Art, Wisconsin, USA. in December 2016. And this is just one of the many themes that he explores.

Ikeda has been highly acclaimed both in Japan and internationally for his unique worldview, that brings together both the micro and the macro simultaneously, not to mention his masterful technique. Drawing in infinitesimal detail using a 1mm pen and acrylic ink and without under-drawing, his output is limited to a single 10cm square each day!

Artistic Journey

Born 1973 in Saga, he earned his BFA (1998) and MFA (2000) in design from Tokyo University of the Arts. He spent the year of 2011 in Vancouver on an Emerging Artist Study Grant from the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. Ikeda has been based in Madison, Wisconsin since 2013, when he began working as artist-in-residence at the Chazen Museum of Art. 

When he received a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Culture, he chose Vancouver. He wanted to see how people lived and how the city looked, being situated right next to a vast natural wilderness. The vast and the limitless holds a lot of inspiration for this artist who is not in trepidation to undertake the vast and the unknown. As is apparent in all of his projects. It is a part of his process to start embellishing – not always from a pre planned sketch, but often improvising. As long as the sketches fit within the larger narrative.

Initially he was unsure, of his response to a new landscape. He was so used to seeing Japanese landscapes, which are far smaller in scale but more intricate in details, and are the main inspiration behind his work.

Why Manabu Ikeda?

Ikeda process starts with a spark of an idea – something to start with, such as wanting to draw water or forest. Subsequently, he allows his imagination to flow until a work is more or less half done, which is usually after a year or so of intense work. Then he starts thinking about the whole image, and spends another year of hard work to finish it off.

“It is sometimes frustrating, but also mostly rewarding.” Says the artist – because the work is undeniably, tedious. The more you look at his images, the more you see what is happening within. There are airplanes, samurais, Japanese castles, trains, painted cranes, fish, waterfalls, cartoon characters and so on. The content is simply staggering. It is important to Ikeda that the work is not just the product of his imagination. He wants to give them a concrete sense of reality. 

Manabu Ikeda has exhibited his work internationally. When his pieces were a part of the Japanese group exhibition called “Bye bye, kitty!!!” in New York this year, The New York Times printed one of his images on a full half page, which made his art dealer ecstatic.

“The shape, color, and expression of nature… water, bugs, trees and weather, all those provide me with heart pumping sensations and questions. They strongly attract me. I agree that we benefit a lot from advanced technology, but at the same time, I feel that we are acting contrary to nature, which makes me feel endangered.” Says the artist.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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