Melbourne Ikebana Festival, 7 and 8 September

Friday 23 December 2016

Thursday 22 December 2016

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.

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

Sunday 14 August 2016

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Ikebana Today 49

I’d like to mention another difference between Ikebana and contemporary art. Contemporary art has an academic foundation. This is related to its broad range of critics and the rich variety of contexts -  which I have already discussed.  As a result, it seems that contemporary artists, particularly art teachers in universities, are required to be good at theory as well as practice.

As far as I know, however, very few artists are good at both theory and practice. Some artists create wonderful works but their theses are rather disappointing. We also have to be aware that art practice has become hard to define since the modern art promoted the idea that art can be made from any media. 

But in principle, practice-based research seems to be a major approach that regards creating art as a type of research seeking a new insight. 

On the other hand, Ikebana is easy, in the sense that what matters is only practice. All that is required to become a teacher is to be good at practice. Although theory may be required under certain conditions, its is rather limited in terms of academic depth.

Is it possible to develop theory or academic aspects in Ikebana? That may be one of the missions for the International Society of Ikebana Studies. Its journals and some of the books by its members are now a part of the Monash university library collection. Ikebana could become more interesting.

The image is the work I created for Ikebana performance in May this year. I kept working for 40 minutes while Shakuhachi and Koto players performed live music. 

In August there will be announcement of the Ikebana Gallery Award, and in October we will have an Ikebana Exhibition: Wa in Abbotsford Convent. Please visit my website for the details.

Monday 1 August 2016

Opening of a New Japanese Cafe

Shoso created an Ikebana display for a New Japanese Cafe opening on 3 August 2016 at 35 Smith St, Fitzroy.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Semi Finalists for Ikebana Gallery Award 2016

The Ikebana Gallery Award Committee is pleased to announce that the 15 works have been selected as semi-finalists. Five finalists will be selected shortly from these semi-finalists and will be sent to our special judges.

On our Facebook page, please tell us your favourite works. Please LIKE at least 3 (3 or more)works  among the 15 works in the album by 10 August 2016. The most popular work will receive the People's Choice Award 2016. Please vote from the following Facebook page.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Friday 15 July 2016

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Monday 11 July 2016

Ikebana Today 48

I have been thinking about Ikebana and contemporary art for some time. There are many contemporary artworks that use flowers as media. However, I often felt that they were not using flower as Hana (flower). Many Ikebana practitioners would agree with what I feel. Some may even say that they are not using flower to express their love for flowers or that their flowers as are not alive. But such criticisms tend to be too shallow.

How can I explain the difference in the ways Ikebana artists and contemporary artists use flowers in their artworks? What is the Ikebana way of using flowers? After all I had to think about the definition of Ikebana and wrote a paper, Flowers in Contemporary Art, which was published in the International Journal of Ikebana Studies, Vol. 3. I analysed the artworks using flowers by three contemporary artists, Andy Goldsworthy, Sarah Sze, and Anya Gallaccio. I’ll write some of my findings here in the coming issues. If you found it interesting, please visit my site for summary of my paper. Further, if you would like to buy a copy of the journal please visit the site of International Society of Ikebana Studies (

I would like to show my work commissioned by Japan Foundation this month. I made this work for the Snow Travel Expo in Melbourne. Being challenged to use a new style with many restrictions was very hard but extremely rewarding.

Thursday 30 June 2016

New Publication: Flowers in Contemporary Art

Shoso Shimbo's new article was published.
Shimbo, Shoso (2015). Flowers in Contemporary Art: From an Ikebana Perspective, International Journal of Ikebana Studies, 3, 11-19.

This essay considers similarities and differences between contemporary art using flowers as medium, and Ikebana. It investigates strategies used by contemporary artists dealing with flowers, and comments on the dearth of discourse on flowers in Ikebana. This essay focuses on works by three contemporary artists, Andy Goldsworthy, Sarah Sze and Anya Gallaccio. Flowers in their works are analysed in three ways: as a medium, in intrinsic context and in extrinsic context. While in some aspects contemporary artists who use flowers in their work demonstrate a proximity to Ikebana  for instance emphasising their ephemeral nature  contemporary artists use flowers as signifiers within intrinsic and extrinsic contexts too, perhaps framing flowers as nonsignificant everyday objects, or references to the feminine in art history.

How to obtain a copy of International Journal of Ikebana Studies (IJIS)
IJIS is currently available only in hard copy. It costs 1000 Yen plus postage. (IJIS will be available online sometime soon).  


Monday 20 June 2016

Thursday 9 June 2016

Ikebana for Design Institute of Australia

To welcome nation's top designers & design journalists, Shoso Shimbo created an Ikebana sculpture for a Design Institute of Australia's event, In conversation with Piero Gesualdi at Mondopiero, 28 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

Shoso reused the burnt timbers he collected for the Wye River Project 2016. The other materials are succulent and wisteria vines.

Shoso's this work will be on display at Mondopiero until the end of June 2016.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Sunday 5 June 2016

Ikebana Today 47

I ‘d like to summarise what I have been writing about Ikebana and art. Their relationships became particularly interesting for me in studying the two periods: from 1920’s to 1950’s and current. 

Ikebana has been influenced significantly by Western art in the birth of free style Ikebana in the 1920’s and its boom after the war. Generally Ikebana is regarded as a Japanese traditional art form, but it would not be what it is today without the influence of Western art. How the notion of Ikebana as Art influenced the creation of free style Ikebana and how it was perceived by Japanese during the Ikebana boom, which claimed Ikebana as art, are fascinating topics for further research. I’d like to welcome such research for our journal, International Journal of Ikebana Studies.

Also I’m interested in the relationship in pursuing my own art practice. How can I make Ikebana effective in the context of the contemporary art is a crucial issue for an Ikebana artist as well as a contemporary sculptor. An interesting artist for me is again Takashi Murakami, who made Manga effective as an art form in the context of contemporary art.  

In this issue, I would like to show my table arrangement for the Victorian government. When they had a special dinner inviting Japanese guests, they chose my works. I asked Mr Hanashima to create 15 bamboo containers and used florist form to fix the flowers.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Monday 30 May 2016

Sunday 29 May 2016

Friday 27 May 2016

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Ikebana Performance at the Snow Travel Expo Melbourne 2016

Japan Foundation sponsored Shoso Shimbo's Ikebana performance at the Snow Travel Expo 2016 in Melbourne.  This was Shoso's second Ikebana performance in May 2016 and he used a very different approach here from his first performance.