Künstler / Projekt
KOENIG2
Ausstellungstitel
HARUKO MAEDA und Maria Anna

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Duration: 18. 10. - 17. 11. 2018

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— Text
Beschreibung - English
The Japanese artist Haruko Maeda (born 1983 in Tokyo) produces pieces of art of first-rate quality –  paintings, drawings and sculptures –  using elaborate precision work which is reminiscent of old master techniques. She modifies the genre of the ruler portrait and paints with great passion portraits of women which she calls 'bone portraits'. For Maeda, however, bones are not an indicator of a death wish, but instead symbolise eternity and a spiritual strength which outlives the flesh. In addition, with these paintings she critically confronts the discrimination of women in a patriarchal society, and wishes to lend symbolic power to certain selected individuals who have been historically treated reprehensibly. "In my work, I want to depict strong women," says the artist, and refers to the Catholic cult of relics which fascinates her and which to a certain extent she has appropriated in order to "elevate the people whom I paint, into stars." Thus, for example, she represents Maria Anna of Austria (1738–1789), the little valued daughter of Maria Theresia, in ornamental splendour. The artist wraps the body of the fragile princess in a noble, sweeping brocade mantle decorated with vegetal motifs and minerals. During her lifetime, Maria Anna pursued intensive scientific studies and artistic interests, and her collection of minerals is preserved in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. From her dress protrude a skull, ornamented with a diadem of pearls, and bony limbs which burst out into all directions in the image – ribs are visible beneath the transparent ruffled blouse. Maria Anna once said, "God has given me the blessing to recognise the world and its vanity." The Japanese artist, however, does not want to make us believe, as in the Baroque cult of vanitas, that all is vanity, but instead understands transience as part of an endless, life-enhancing process of transformation.

The images by Maeda, which suspend time in a static medium, are frequently based on historical models which she has studied in museums, or has researched in the internet and in books. The artist, who left Japan at the age of 20 to study art in Europe and who completed her painting studies under Ursula Hübner at the University of Art and Design Linz in 2012, also lately employs small stuffed animals such as mice and birds for beautiful-macabre sculptures: "Gifts" (2017). In her oeuvre, which often draws attention to the ancient fear of the void, the horror vacui, Maeda allows the contrasts of Eros and Thanatos, Beauty and Horror, to culminate in a virtuoso manner.

"Renaissance 4" (2018) is a small-format painting with an elaborate wooden frame which the artist carved herself and decorated with a relief of leaves, insects, dung, and dead animals. In the centre of the work is a pile of dung from which flowers spring: the seed or nucleus of death, which contains in itself life. The representation of excrement as an end-product of a biological chain of processes shakes the foundations of culturally codified behaviours and societal taboos. In accordance with the French ethnologist Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957), when one observes Maeda's works, one could think of the "rites de passage", the permanent cycle of becoming and dying, the overcoming of subjective boundaries and the individual embedding in a societal framework.

The metaphor of death which is permanently present in the artist's work is directed against pervasive mechanisms of supression. It cultivates Asiatic beliefs which view life and death as part of a larger whole, a conscious life in the here and now, as well as recognising the animistic soulfulness of all things. In this manner, Maeda combines elements of western and eastern religions into a syncretistic apotheosis, in which the Christian conception of the afterlife and the this-world referentiality of Shintoism are intermingled.
(curated by Angela Stief)

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Galerie
HARUKO MAEDA

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