Monday, October 6, 2014

Meticulously Monumental: Manabu Ikeda’s Dedication to Perfection

Manabu Ikeda attends to details. Via.

The wave rises. Uprooted buildings, destroyed planes, and derailed trains follow. A giant glacier is swept along, rope-tethered climbers working to scale the massive chunk of ice as it travels. Roads have been split, tunnels upturned, and a raging fire is rapidly consuming what’s left of a small forest. This could be the apocalypse.

Or it could be a mere fraction of what’s taking place in Manabu Ikeda’s Foretoken, a drawing of a massive, 6 by 11 foot wave crashing through civilization.

Ikeda’s works are examples of precision and persistence which sacrifice neither scope nor detail, depicting painstakingly crafted landscapes laden with subtle touches and sweeping emotion. To achieve this, he uses a small, fine-point acrylic pen for his drawings, working on only a few inches each day for up to eight hours, which will eventually make up the minute details of a much larger piece, which often takes him years to complete. For his current project, Ikeda is in the middle of a three-year residency at the Chazen Museum of Art, working on a single drawing.

Commenting on Meltdown, one of Ikeda’s more recent drawings, Chazen director Russell Panczenko told the Wisconsin State Journal, “if you look closely, with all this detail covering the whole surface, there isn’t a pen stroke that is more than an eighth of an inch in length. So – talk about intensity.”

Ikeda’s meticulous approach is very much connected to Japanese tradition. In Japan the term takumi is reserved for one who has mastered his/her profession at the highest level of technical precision.

“The master does it by hand; that’s what makes him the master. That’s important to him,” Panczenko noted.

Ikeda’s work process tends to be spontaneous, as he either sketches quickly thought-out images in sketchbooks or directly inks his larger works without a sketch draft.

Manabu Ikeda's Foretoken (Detail), 2008. Pen, acrylic ink on paper, mounted on boards; 72 x 132 in. Collection of Sustainable Investor Co., Ltd. © Manabu Ikeda, courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery.

“I use ideas that flash in my mind at the moment,” Ikeda said in an interview with Hi-Fructose Magazine. “From a distance, I look at the whole balance of work, and finally determine the image, which takes about one year after I started drawing. Recently, I try to have a whole solid image in the beginning to shorten the time.”

Ikeda’s works received much critical praise in America during Japan Society's 2011 exhibition Bye Bye Kitty!!!, which highlighted contemporary Japanese artists whose works utilized traditional styles while going against foreign preconceptions of Japanese art.

The New Yorker described Ikeda as “a visionary”, saying, “It would take you hours to explore thoroughly, and then you’d have to start over, to refresh your memory. Does this sound like a stunt? It’s an enchantment.” The New York Times praised Ikeda’s attention to detail:
… nothing tops Manabu Ikeda’s miniaturist ink landscapes and cityscapes. In "Existence" he presents the world as a giant, decomposing tree. In “History of Rise and Fall,” it becomes a shifting, clattering architectural pileup: a million-roofed samurai castle garnished with cherry trees, fragmented Buddhist sculptures and ant-size hanged human figures.
From October 10 to January 11, visitors to Japan Society Gallery can experience the largest number of Manabu Ikeda’s drawings assembled to date, presented alongside works by “ultra technologist” collective teamLab and Neo-Nihonga purveyor Hisashi Tenmyouya in Garden of Unearthly Delights: Works by Ikeda, Tenmyouya & teamLab.

The exhibition showcases a crossover from past to present, according to Japan Society Gallery director and exhibition co-curator Miwako Tezuka. Many of Ikeda’s drawings focus on this transition – more specifically, on the shift from reliance on nature to reliance on technology.

“I agree that we benefit a lot from advanced technology," Ikeda told Hi-Fructose, "but at the same time, I feel that we are acting contrary to nature, which makes me feel endangered. Also, figuratively, accomplished shapes do not move my heart. At the end, for example, the mystery of a caterpillar’s color and shape is much more fun for me than any amazing technology.”

-- Mark Gallucci; additional reporting by Younjoo Sang

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