There is a reason for every occurrence in one’s life. The subconscious mind never fails to document every tiny detail in the sentiments that we feel and in the things that we see during specific events and experiences in our current and past lives. In the same spirit, Ika Forssell’s unfathomable interest in Japanese heritage and culture is not accidental. Inspirations are never accidental.
Ika is a Swedish artist who is based in Singapore. She has traveled extensively and has lived in Brazil, Sweden and Japan. The artist, who quite instantaneously exudes a subtle sense of positive flamboyance, enjoys manipulating Japanese washi paper (organic, handmade paper) together with oil colours on her canvas. Ika’s on-going series of paintings entitled ‘Portraits’, was first exhibited at an art exhibition at the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission and Swedish Church in Singapore last year. As an extension to this series, Ika has created a compellingly expressive artwork, entitled Kabuki, in her combination of washi paper and oil on canvas.
Kabuki is a classical dance-drama of Japan, known and appreciated for its highly-dramatic stylisation and the intriguingly elaborate gear and make-up worn by its performers. Ika’s Kabuki is an indubitably confrontational artwork. The revelation of the single eye of the Kabuki performer – the all-encompassing subject of the painting – evokes the sense of an untold narrative; a secret that is destined to remain a timeless mystery. Red. Blue. White. Black. The chosen colour palette reflects a prudent decision to allow no distraction – for the subject, the viewer and the artist – from the perceived confrontation that is occurring within and through the painting. Here, what is being confronted is an open-ended matter that is clearly not the focus. Instead, it is the act and right to confront that is being theatrically-celebrated in Ika’s Kabuki. Staying true to the dance-drama’s heavily colour-oriented physical attributes, Ika’s careful, limited and calculated usage of washi paper as a compliment to the oil medium offers the viewer the much-needed and expected dramatisation.
Undoubtedly and unsurprisingly, there have been many artists across the globe who have been enchanted, enlightened and inspired by the enthralling art and culture of the Land of the Rising Sun. The Post-Impressionists (who belong to a late 19th century movement in modern art within the western context), prove to be a classic example. Indeed, the word ‘Japonism’ was termed in 1872, in order to refer to the influence of Japanese art on artists who hail from the western context. One cannot help but mention Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh at this juncture, as his aesthetic obsession with Japanese art, particularly ukiyo-e (a genre of woodblock prints/paintings), continues to be a monumental point-of-reference in popular art history.
Coming back to Ika, it is important to mention her successful participation as a significant artist of the blockbuster exhibition, ‘The Global Icon: Ganesha in Fine Art’, which was presented by Gnani Arts in Singapore in May 2014. For this exhibition, which received stupendous media coverage and appreciation, Ika had created contemporary paintings of the popular Hindu god Ganesha, depicting him in convivial, worldly situations. What is fascinating is that her Ganesha paintings were created with washi paper, Indonesian batik and oil colours. On that note, it is indeed amiable and commendable to witness Ika’s growing commitment towards the embracement of multiculturalism, not only in her choice of medium, but also in her choice of concept and context.
To view artworks by Ika Forssell, visit www.gnaniarts.com or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Vidhya Gnana Gouresan