death is very difficult for human beings, although all living
creatures are bound to die one day. Death is experienced just once in
a lifetime. It is impossible to know in advance what we will feel at
the moment of dying and what may come afterwards. I, too, have
experienced the death of persons close to me. This was very painful
and hard to understand. In our life, it is basically impossible to
2011, the unexpected earthquake and disastrous tsunami in
north-eastern Japan and the accident at the nuclear power station of
Fukushima run by Tepco profoundly shocked people all over the world,
including myself. Suddenly, thousands of persons died under the black
and turbid waters of the tsunami in a formerly peaceful province,
while the survivors are now living in fear of diseases caused by
radioactive contamination. It occurred to me that “Memento Mori”
is still a valid concept.
of my works is entitled “Heartbeat of the Death 2“*1.
This painting, in which I depict a princess as a skeleton, in a way
references the portrait of the Infanta Margarita by Diego Velazquez.
Her portraits were painted at age three, five and eight years. The
young, naive expression of the princess, who is shown in the painting
standing perfectly still like a doll in her magnificent dress,
enchanted me. But contrary to the first impression of this lovely
young girl, her life was blighted by calamity. After repeated
miscarriages due to the frequent intermarriages in the Habsburg
family and several live births, she died at only 22 years of age. Of
her six children, only one daughter survived. I contemplated the
painting, imagining the short future ahead of this child, and it
seemed to me as if a shadow of death were suddenly looming over her
innocent, frail body.
*1 “Heartbeat of the Death 2“, oil on canvas, 2009 (Olbricht collection)
moving to Austria, I have time and again encountered signs of death
in everyday life. An example: when I go out shopping, the doors of
the Ursuline Church at half-point of the Linz Landstrasse are usually
open. I enter rather aimlessly and see small, shiny relics of saints’
bodies lying still in the middle side chapel and in the crypt
downstairs. They were brought to the Ursuline Church around the
century, in the Baroque era. The small bone-bodies dressed in
delicate adornments – like cobwebs sprinkled with dew – seem to
lie sleeping, right beside the main street bustling with life.
continue my shopping trip and find a notice board beside a chocolate
shop. It lists the names of recently deceased persons with their
photos and years of birth and death. Reading the lists from top to
bottom, I develop a personal relationship with the dead, although
they are total strangers to me. This is the same feeling I experience
towards the adorned saints’ bodies in the Ursuline Church and
towards the Infanta Margarita in her portrait.
own biographical history and the history interpreted by me influence
my artistic output by taking the form of a question about existence,
life and death.
in Objects and in Identity
in ugliness and fear” plays an important role in my work. As a
young girl attending the lower forms of primary school, I read
several Japanese horror manga*2– furtively, like a
teenage boy might surreptitiously read a porn magazine. Somehow I
realised that the books belonged to a category a young child is not
supposed to read. And yet I was fascinated bythese
manga because I had discovered a hidden beauty in their insane,
terrifying and ugly imagery.
manga ”Orochi“ by Umezu Kazuo
Painting of ghost by Maruyama Ōkyo, 1785
the Japanese horror tradition (in movies, manga, novels and paintings
of ghosts since the Edo period*3(from 1603 to 1868)),
long black hair is a symbol. This long black hair inspires fear and
uneasiness if the context is a creepy one, although long hair is also
considered a symbol of female beauty.
cardinal point of my art and something that I am always looking for
in my work is the inherent polarity of objects, which may change into
the opposite due to contrary expressions and interpretations (like
the juxtaposition of beauty and fear in connection with long hair),
as well as the identity of objects that render opposites
indistinguishable due to common, shared qualities (such as the beauty
in ugliness I found in the horror manga).
am intrigued by the music video and live performance of Lady Gaga’s
“Paparazzi”*4because opposites –
love and hate, life and death, justice and violence, trust and
betrayal, sanctity and baseness, beauty and ugliness – co-exist
side by side within one mise-en-scène. The spectator is disturbed by
these extremes, yet the dynamics of their co-existence are at the
same time overwhelming.
Lady Gaga, live performance “Paparazzi“, 2009
and organs, gemstones and plants are materials frequently used in my
current work. Bones, flesh and blood are the origin of life; when
they issue forth from the body, they change into signs of hideous
death. But drops of blood and broken shards of bone may also look
like glittering rubies or silky-smooth pearls. Exposed nerves and
flesh may resemble vigorous, lovely stalks and flowers.
and life are the themes of my artistic work. Although they are
diametrically opposed, they are actually adjoining. Although they are
far removed from each other, they yet come very close. From the
moment of our birth, we move inexorably towards death, day after day.
After life, death comes for each and every one of us without
my mind, the original significance of relics is that the remains
(death) are still imbued with energy (life), like the eternal
heartbeats of death. Like a dead body dressed in gleaming stones, I
am looking for the dynamics of my artistic work, where beauty and
ugliness, life and death co-exist in contradiction.
前田晴子 Born 1983 in Tokyo, Japan.
Since 2005 studies at Art university Linz, Austria.
2007,2009, Achievementscholarship of art university Linz.
2009-2010, Residence at Studiohaus Salzamt, Linz.
Collection: Land NiederÖsterreich.
2012: "Haruko Maeda" Christian Larsen Gallery Stockholm
2011:"Alle Heillige" Ursulinen Kirche, Linz
2010: "Wasserwerfer"(Collaboration mit Philippe Gerlach), Galerie LOVE, Vienna.
"R.I.P" (with Philipp Hanich), Galerie Paradigma, Linz
2009: "pets" Thomas K Lang gallery at webster university Vienna
2007: "Süße Kreaturen" Galerie Simone Feichtner, Linz
2013: "Julie Heffernan, Haruko Maeda, Dolly Thompsett" at All visual Arts, London
2011: "Von Engeln und Bengeln" Kunsthalle Krems, "Im Garten" Nordico, "mémoires du futur, la collection olbricht" La Maison Rouge, Paris.
2010: Global studio Exhibition, Bluecoat gallery, Liverpool.
"Die edlen Früchte und die gouvernante", Schloss harmannsdorf.
2008: "Ich habe nicht genug, ihr matten Augen", Universal cube at Spinnerei, Leipzig
2007: "Look at me!", Schloss Goldegg
2006: "Fauna hybrid", Galerie Charim, Vienna