Japanese Haruko Maeda lives and works in Austria since 2005. In her art she combines the Shintoistic traditions of her homeland with the Roman Catholic faith, deeply rooted in Austrian culture and history. This allows her to position herself between East and West. Maeda lets these double belongings function as a kind of filter through which she can process her own memories and experiences. The purpose is to raise universal questions about existence, life and death.
“I constantly find signs of death in Austrian every-day life. When I go shopping I always stop and look at the bulletin board next to the chocolate shop on the high street. There are lists with photos of people who recently passed away. Reading the lists are always a few people, most of whom are elderly and might soon end up on the list themselves. When I read the list I feel a personal bond to the deceased, even though to me they’re complete strangers. I get the same feeling when I look at the adorned corpses of the saints, lying seemingly asleep in their coffins in the Ursilinenkirche, the entrance of which faces the commerce of the high street”, says Haruko Maeda, speaking about the constant presence of death in every-day life.
As a further development of her interest in death’s presence in life, Maeda seeks beauty in the ugly and the frightening. Her work is an enquiry into the intrinsic polarity of objects, how something can be turned into its complete opposite through only small changes in design, context or interpretation. One example of this that the artist favors is the simultaneous connotations of long black hair to the beautiful and the fearsome. In Japanese culture, long black hair is a symbol of female beauty while at the same time, in the country’s myths, it is one of the main attributes of vengeful female ghosts.
Meada’s ambiguous imagery includes detailed depictions of bones, organs, gems and plants. Our existence is encapsulated in a living mass composed of flesh, blood and bone. However, when one of these components is separated from the body as a whole, it is immediately turned into a gruesome reminder of death and decay. Maeda has, in her work, chosen to play with this relationship by making blood and crushed bones look as if they really consist of some precious material like gleaming rubies and silky pearls. The exposed nerves and raw flesh similarly twist and turn around each other to create beautiful, strong and in every sense of the word, living stalks with petals growing from them.
Haruko Maeda, born 1983, Tokyo, Japan. Lives and works in Linz, Austria since 2005. She graduated from Kunst Universität Linz in 2012. The exhibition at Christian Larsen is her first solo show.