Monday, 6 February 2017

Ikebana Today 55

Isn’t it more convenient to present Ikebana as a unique Japanese way of meditation or spiritual training rather than trying to understand it in the context of Western art and design?

Before I start to talk about that option, it is important to emphasise again the close relationship between Ikebana and Western art. The influence of western culture on Ikebana is significant. After the Meiji Restoration, firstly, certain styles of western flower arrangements were incorporated into Ikebana. Then, some ideas of Modern art inspired several artists to develop a free style Ikebana. The number of Ikebana practitioners increased significantly after the war, under the slogan, “Ikebana is art”.

However, there is a big difference in terms of the definition of art between Ikebana artists in Japan and contemporary western artists. Although this is an interesting topic to consider, we will think about it some other time.

Is it easy for Western people to understand that Ikebana is a spiritual training? The training in Ikebana largely consists of acquiring skills. However, remember that I mentioned that in Western art, skills are not always appreciated highly. Beautiful paintings by highly skilful painters are not always appreciated as highly valued art. Being simply beautiful is not necessarily artistic. Ikebana may be perceived as a beautiful popular folk craft rather than art, lacking sculptural qualities or concepts.

But in Japan Ikebana is more than a craft. It is recognised as a way of the flower, a spiritual training through acquiring skills. However, an important question is how acquiring skills is related to spiritual enhancement. While the former is something that can be measured, the latter is something more metaphysical. We will think about this difficult question in forthcoming issues.

The Ikebana work of this month is one I created for a clinical reception. Our service includes weekly flowers for offices etc.

In February my course, Ikebana to Contemporary art at RMIT Short Courses will start again and in March I will conduct an Ikebana introduction workshop at a Fitzroy library. If you want to try Ikebana near the city, consider these options. Learning Ikebana is a great way to meet new people.