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Monday, 5 December 2016

Ikebana Today 53

As I mentioned last time, the difference between Ikebana and contemporary art is similar to that between haiku and a novel. The former resonates mainly in the senses, while the latter resonates mainly in the intellect. Realising such differences is not a conclusion, but a starting point in investigating what Ikebana is. We have to face more and often more complicated questions.

Ikebana values more than anything how it appears in the work’s internal contexts such as materials and their composition. Isn’t that a characteristic of design rather than art?

It is generally agreed that Western floristry belongs to design rather than art. It has to be first of all a commercial product, which is a realistic necessity. Of course some of the Western floral works can be really artistic. For instance, look at some of the works included in “International Floral Art” by Stichting Kunstboek, Belgium. On viewing the many fascinating works including my own, one might realise that the boundary between design and art is rather ambiguous even in Western floristry.

Then, what about Ikebana? Is it design or art? In this series, I have been criticising again and again the statement that “Ikebana is art”. It is too simplistic. In some aspects Ikebana is like design, in other aspects it is like art. To answer this question, we probably need to look at Ikebana from a different perspective. What is that perspective? I’ll keep writing about it next year.

This is a work I made for a graduation ceremony of a girls’ college in Melbourne. The person in charge had seen my large work at the Lorne Sculpture 2016 and my small table arrangements for their grandparents day, and decided to commission me again for this event . As you can imagine, it was very well received. It may be rather rare to have flower arrangements of this scale at a school event in Australia. However, I hope that large flower arrangements will soon be highly recommended in any important event, not just in schools, but also in other organizations. In Japan it is a common sense to have a flower arrangement on important occasions. Maybe it should be a mission of Ikebana artists in Australia to promote such a notion about the function and power of flowers.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Monday, 28 November 2016

Monday, 21 November 2016

Friday, 18 November 2016

Shoso's Introduction Speech for Dr Inoue

Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming today, and thank you, Shoan Lo for making a beautiful Ikebana display for this special event. Also I would like to say thank you to Dr Jeremy Breaden from Japanese Studies Centre Monash University for his help in organising this event.  

My name is Shoso Shimbo, and I am happy to introduce today’s guest speaker, Dr Osamu Inoue.

Dr Inoue is an associate professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design, and the vice president of the International Society of Ikebana Studies. He completed his PhD on the Christian Socialism Movement in England from Kyoto university in 2007. In the same year he obtained the status of professor in the Saga Goryu School of Ikebana. Since 2009 he has published a number of papers on Ikebana and this year he published a very important book, The Thoughts of Ikebana (「花道の思想」 ) from Shibunkaku Shuppan. The book is the most comprehensive introduction to Ikebana, its aesthetics and philosophy and is based on a deep understanding of Japanese culture and history. This is a remarkable book that anyone interested in Ikebana cannot miss.  

It was about 5 years ago that I read one of his papers for the first time. I was so excited to find someone who is studying Ikebana in a properly academic way. Also his research interest was so close to my own. I immediately wrote an email to him to tell how pleased I was. Since then we exchanged numerous emails and we decided to found the International Society of Ikebana Studies (ISIS) with other prominent Ikebana researchers around the world. This is the first international academic society in the history of Ikebana, and we have published three volumes of our annual journal, the International Journal of Ikebana Studies.

Dr Inoue has been also helping our project, Ikebana Gallery Award. This is the first online Ikebana competition that is open to any Ikebana student. Our blog and Facebook post now reach over 5000 viewers. Dr Inoue has been one of our volunteer judges since 2012.       

We are very pleased to have Dr Inoue here today to share his insights in Ikebana and research findings from his new book, The Thoughts of Ikebana. Please join me in welcoming our guest, Dr Osamu Inoue.


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Friday, 4 November 2016

Ikebana Today 52

Recognising the differences between Ikebana and contemporary art would help us to understand both of them better. For instance, compare my ikebana which I made for Hanabishi Japanese restaurant with Flower by a contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami (Google Flower, Murakami).
Although I don’t know much about Murakami, I can assure you that you can never make any sense of the work no matter how much you look into the image. I have said before that the the most crucial element in contemporary art is meaning. Then, what is the meaning of this work? Perhaps it is in the contexts of history of Japanese painting including ukiyoe and anime, and that of Pop arts in America. Without the knowledge of the art historical contexts, you cannot really appreciate the work.

On the other hand, what you see is everything in Ikebana. Of course, sometimes the knowledge of  historical or social contexts is required to interpret an Ikebana work. But Ikebana is not very good at utilising its external contacts. It is sensibility rather than intellect that matters in appreciating Ikebana. In that sense, I think Ikebana is a bit similar to Haiku. 

For example, what is the essence of the famous Haiku by Basho, “An old pond — a splashing sound of a frog jumping in”? It must be silence or solitude in nature. The crucial thing is whether you can sympathise with this verse or not. Some may interpret this Haiku philosophically. If you think about unimportant details too much, however, you would miss the essence of the art.

Notably, in both Ikebana and Haiku, the creators have to develop refined skills to produce works that resonate in the heart of the viewers/readers. Artistic skill or craftsmanship is valued. Acquiring such skills involves training. The process is traditionally referred to the way of art and is synonymous with personal development in Japan.  

However, as I mentioned, in western art, particularly before Impressionism, skills were not so valued. Flower paintings can be made by anyone if he/she has skill, therefore it is not so valuable. On the other hand, historical paintings require imagination, narratives and inspiration, therefore are more valuable. Such an attitude may still prevail in contemporary art. 

In sum, sensibility is important to appreciate Ikebana, while intellect is necessary to appreciate contemporary art.           


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Friday, 28 October 2016

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ikebana Today 51

I have been writing about the differences between Ikebana and contemporary art. I pointed out that their differences are similar to the differences between haiku and a novel. If we compare Ikebana to haiku, and contemporary art to the novel, we would have a better understanding of the two genres. Before I start to talk about that, however, I had better mention how flowers have been regarded in the history of Western art. Such knowledge would help us to understand my argument on Ikebana and haiku.  

Bencard (2004) stated, “Ever since antiquity still-life pictures, including flower paintings, have been considered a low-status art genre. Flower pictures were disdained because they were the opposite of history painting, which topped the genre-hierarchy of the art academies.” While history paintings narrate something, flower paintings just depict something. While history painters had to have good ideas, knowledge and imagination, flower painters could paint from nature without thinking about anything. While history painting was considered real art, enjoying the status of inapproachable high culture, flower painting was regraded as craftsmanship, easily accessible, popular, even kitschy.     

Such a stereotyped opposition determined for centuries people’s view on flower paintings. It may influence our view of floral art, including Ikebana even today. But in the 19th century the genre hierarchy of the art academies broke down with the rise of the Impressionism.

What I want to emphasise here is the values in Western art. It seems that they valued meaning and something intellectual in art work, while being simply beautiful or high craftsmanship was not valued so much. I may mention in the future that gaining high craftsmanship was highly regarded as a result of personal development in the East. Nevertheless, I am now ready to move to the discussion of the similarity between Ikebana and haiku. 

This is a work I made for Chotto, 35 Smith St, Fitzroy. The newly opened Japanese cafe is so popular that they often have to close early, due to having sold out of all the food.

This month we will have an Ikebana exhibition at Abbotsford convent on 8 & 9 October. www.facebook.com/wa.ikebana

Bencard, E. J. (2004), Some questions for flora, The Flower as Image. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: Denmark.      


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Monday, 19 September 2016

Monday, 12 September 2016

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Ikebana Today 50

I have been writing about the differences between Ikebana and contemporary art. Although there are many differences, what is the most important and fundamental difference? Recognising such a difference would help us to understand better both Ikebana and contemporary art.

After practising the both forms of art for a while, I now realise that their difference is a bit similar to the difference between haiku and a novel. For me creating Ikebana is just like creating haiku and making a sculpture is like writing a novel. I’ll explain the difference more in detail in the next issues. 

This is the Ikebana work I made for Shumei Kobayashi’s exhibition at the Lesley Kehoe Galleries on Collins St, Melbourne. I used a container by a master potter, Shoji Mitsuo. I heard that Mr Shoji visited the opening and I hope that he liked it. Arranging many Japonica branches one by one was wonderful meditation for me. I hope many people will experience that through Ikebana. I also hope that many will visit our Ikebana exhibition at Abbotsford convent on 8 & 9 October.    


Friday, 2 September 2016