Manabu Ikeda
An Earth-Shattering Visual Experience

An Earth-Shattering Visual Experience

Story by Katherine Fawcett


Manabu Ikeda in front of New Work in progress, 2019 – pen, acrylic ink, and transparent watercolour on paper, mounted on board
300 × 600 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Mizuma Art Gallery
Photo: Eric Baillies

Manabu Ikeda’s groundbreaking new exhibition, Flowers from the Wreckage, at the Audain Art Museum (AAM), is the art icon’s first major solo show in North America. And visitors to the exhibition, which runs from June 24 to Oct. 9 in the AAM’s Tom and Teresa Gautreau Galleries, can expect an unforgettable experience.

Ikeda’s paintings and drawings are intense. The layers, delicate details, and grand themes are emotionally and visually powerful. “Viewers are often mesmerized by the tremendous amount of work that goes into his creation: It is an earth-shattering visual experience that takes us on a journey of ambiguous times and places,” said Kiriko Watanabe, AAM’s Gail & Stephen A. Jarislowsky curator, who curated this exhibition.

Ikeda, born in 1973 in Saga, Japan, currently lives and works in Madison, Wisc. He works in pencil, pen, acrylic ink, and watercolour to create highly evocative images inspired by the world around him. With beauty, intricacy, and awe, he draws attention to the harsh reality of environmental disasters. Images and metaphors of human grief and the potentially devastating power of nature pervade his work. Still, there are also themes of individual and community resilience and the ability of people to rise above seemingly hopeless situations.

“At first glance, viewers recognize natural beauty depicted in his work,” explained Watanabe. “As we step closer, we recognize thousands of tiny details, layers of visual messages, actions, and playfulness culminated in his expression. Ikeda’s symbolically rich images evoke both familiarity and foreboding of potential disaster.”


Three Surfaces, 2021
pen, acrylic ink, and transparent watercolour on paper, mounted on board
122 × 92 cm
Collection of Michael Audain
and Yoshiko Karasawa


くさかまきりGrass Mantis, 2004
pen and acrylic ink on paper - 23 × 29 cm
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison John H. Van Vleck Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.25
Photo: Kei Miyajima

Ikeda’s larger pieces, such as Foretoken, Meltdown, and Rebirth, all took Ikeda a long time to complete. This exhibition will feature 62 works from Ikeda’s 30-year artistic career that have been brought together from national and international public, private, and corporate collections.

As an exciting special feature, from June 15 to Aug. 30, Ikeda will be on-site, in-person. As the first-ever artist in residence at the AAM, Ikeda will set up his studio by the windows in the AAM’s Upper Galleries to continue working on a new large-scale, pen-and-ink-on-paper creation that he started in 2019. Open studio hours on Thursday to Saturday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. will give visitors a unique experience of observing his process and the chance to interact with the artist.

“We loved the idea of having Manabu be [an] artist in residence. And he loved the windows and the open space looking up towards the mountains,” said Watanabe. “In the computer age, you can see images on the screen. As a curator, I like to make the spatial experience like nothing you can get from home or on your screen.

” Watanabe, who has known the artist personally for many years, said that watching him draw is quiet, mesmerizing, and astonishing.
Manabu Ikeda: Flowers from the Wreckage is presented by The Audain Foundation, with the assistance of the April 1 Foundation as a major sponsor and supporting sponsor the Michael & Inna O’Brian Family Foundation, among others.


再生 Regeneration, 2001
pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board - 162 × 162 cm
Collection of Hamamatsu Municipal Museum of Art, Shizuoka, Japan


嘆きの花 Flowers of Grief, 2019
pencil, pen, acrylic ink, and transparent watercolour
on paper, mounted on board - 27.3 × 22.5 cm
Collection of Harvey Sawikin and Andrea Krantz
Photo: Satoshi Tsuchiyama


Meltdown, 2013
pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board
122 × 122 cm
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison Colonel Rex W. and Maxine Schuster Radsch Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.24


ブッダ Buddha, 2000
pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board
130 × 162.1 cm
Private Collection


興亡史 History of Rise and Fall, 2006
pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board
200 × 200 cm
Takahashi Ryutaro Collection
Photo: Kei Miyajima

For more information visit

Featured Image for this story:
予兆 Foretoken, 2008
pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board
190 × 340 cm
Collection of Sustainable Investor Co., Ltd.
(Kagura Salon) Photo: Yasuhide Kuge