Imagine a wall. On it is painted a destructive sea with a mountainous tree in the middle. Grimy pollution litters the tree’s roots. Also featured are small white human and animal silhouettes. Elegant flowers gild treetops. Behind these designs are two worlds—human and natural—that depict antagonistic relationships. This wall, these images are more than just fantasy; in fact, this is a real mural that Japanese artist Ikeda Manabu has worked on for the past three years at the Chazen Museum of Art.
Using just a fine-tipped pen, acrylic ink, and a blank canvas, Manabu has created multiple masterpieces. The time he spends creating a single illustration spans anywhere from months to years.
For the past three years, Manabu has worked in the basement of the Chazen Museum in absolute solitude. Here, he sits at a humble table and draws for hours each day. On average, it takes him nearly eight hours to finish a single 4 inch by 4 inch square. Today, his nearly-complete project of four painted panels stands at 10 by 14 feet.
Manabu’s works reflect worlds that exist only in his imagination—worlds in which humans try desperately to control nature, yet to no avail. In Manabu’s mind, humans are merely simple beings in a great universe, but we possess the powerful capacity to hurt nature. This recurring theme is evident in much of Manabu’s earlier works like “Meltdown,” which was the product of inspiration he drew from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
In just a few short weeks, Manabu will finish his mural at the Chazen. Shortly thereafter, he plans to return to Japan. And while the Garfield Gallery in Wisconsin will showcase the mural for a brief period after its completion, it is ultimately up to Manabu’s agency to decide the fate of his art.
Those of us at Simpson Street Free Press who have viewed Manabu’s masterpiece encourage everyone who is able to take advantage of this opportunity and pay a visit to the stunning painting. After all, poignant works like this one don’t come along every day!