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.