Shoso teaches "Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art" at RMIT University Short Courses. It will be available for anyone (not just for RMIT students). This class will take participants on a journey to explore the theory of Japanese aesthetics through practical exercises. Next term will start from 15/2/2017. Please book early. http://bit.ly/1IFmuyl http://www.shoso.com.auhttps://www.facebook.com/ikebanaaustralia
In a collection of his works, Shunmyo Masuno, a garden designer and zen monk, states that creating gardens is a zen training. The important thing is to devote oneself to daily training. Great works can never be created by chance. Here is a philosophy of art in Japan. If you devote yourself to one thing and accomplish it, you can also accomplish your own life. Way or DO is unification of devotion and accomplished art. Art training is also regarded as a spiritual training. There is a belief that only virtuous persons can create great work of art. Actually the belief of DO is everywhere in Japan, not just in art training such as Ikebana, but also in cooking, sports, management, academic work, manufacturing, cleaning etc. This is a very familiar notion for the Japanese. In the previous issues, I tried to position Ikebana in the context of the Western art and questioned whether it is art or design. But I could not do it so easily. If I state that Ikebana is a spiritual training just like meditation or zen training, however, there would be little ambiguity. This may be a great way to introduce Ikebana to people outside Japan. Indeed, that’s exactly how Daisetsu Suzuki, a well known zen master, introduced Japanese culture to the West after the war. During his visit to Melbourne last November, it appeared to me that Dr Inoue, associate professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design and the vice president of International Society of Ikebana Studies, also sees Ikebana in a similar way. I look forward to his future work, the philosophy of Ikebana after his publication of The Thought of Ikebana this year. His work would follow a great succession of well-known members of the Kyoto School of Philosophy including Shinichi Hisamatsu who wrote the book “The Philosophy of Tea” I do agree that Ikebana is a form of DO. However, I don’t think that Ikebana can be explained completely in zen philosophy. Although I don’t intend to undermine the great works done by Daisetsu Suzuki and the Kyoto School of Philosophy, I will discuss my own views of Ikebana from the next issues. This is a New Year’s arrangement I made for Koko restaurant in the Crown Hotel last year. I make new work every year. If you have a chance, please visit the restaurant to see it. http://www.shoso.com.au
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. http://www.shoso.com.au https://www.facebook.com/ikebanaaustralia
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.
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.