Melbourne Ikebana Festival, 7 and 8 September

Sunday 25 March 2018

Sea snakes: Trash vortexes at the Lorne Sculpture 2018

Go and see Shoso Shimbo's floating & flashing sculpture, Sea snakes at the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, 17 March - 2 April 2018. Sea snakes is one of the two entries by Shoso and was supported by so many people. Thank you, Ming Loo, Hide Hanashima, students of Star of the Sea college, Shoso's ikebana students, David McKenzie, Graeme Wilkie and many more.

Saturday 10 March 2018

Ikebana Today No.68

I’d like to talk about the second Ikebana boom in the Meiji and Taisho era. Any boom occurs as a result of multiple factors. There is no simple explanation about their causes. However, it is clear that this boom occurred among young women. What did they want from Ikebana? We should look into their social conditions. But I have not come across any research about this potentially excellent topic. The following is, therefore, my own hypothesis.

Who were those behind the boom? Considering that the number of housewives (stay-at-home wives) increased only after the Taisho era, it was young unmarried women who took Ikebana as a training to become a housewife.

The Meiji government’s aim was to increase wealth and power of the State. In each household a woman was expected to be a good and wise housewife. Family law in the Meiji era made it difficult for women to choose other options. Marriage was in their best interest and it was natural for them to seek the best possible opportunities.

An important factor to consider is that womens' colleges were established in the Meiji era, and Ikebana and tea ceremony were often thought as unofficial subjects in many of them. As a result, the general perception was that intelligent ladies from women’s college can do Ikebana! People started to think that you are a lady if you can do Ikebana. Ikebana provided a better marriage opportunity for women. In other words, Ikebana was successful in gaining branding and learning it was a good investment.

There were some innovations in Ikebana that contributed to the boom in this period. The most significant was the promotion of Moribana by the Ohara school. Moribana is an arrangement made in a shallow container using Kenzan or Shippo. In essence, it simplified Ikebana. Its simple designs allow almost anyone to make Ikebana. In addition, it was suitable for the Western style housing that start to become popular that time and it allowed the use of new types of flowers that came from the West. It really focused on the enjoyable aspects of Ikebana. No wonder it became so popular! Even today, Moribana is the style that many Ikebana students learn first at Ikebana schools.

This is an arrangement I made for Hanabishi restaurant in Melbourne. I really enjoy working for this client. In March I will make 2 environmental works for the Lorne Sculpture 2018 and I’ll talk about environmental art at their conference. Lorne Sculpture is the largest outdoor art festival in Victoria and a number of international artists and researchers participate in this event. Please join us.

Thursday 1 March 2018

Abstract of Shoso's presentation at the Asian Conference for Arts & Humanities 2018, Kobe, Japan

The ongoing destruction of our environment by man-made pollution continues to push the world toward catastrophic consequences. The roots of some of these problems are often traced to the rise of Western modernity as well as the Western attitude to nature, where nature is objectified and exploited as a resource.

In response, we are seeing the emergence of an eco-centric perspective in contemporary art. Environmental artists have been using various approaches from focusing on raising awareness to searching for solutions or setting out a plan for social transformation.

Some of them have noted that certain non-Western cultures could inform a valuable shift in aesthetic experience. In many Indigenous cultures, nature often centres the members of a group by providing boundaries of behaviour, as well as access to sacred realms of enlightenment. While the idealisation of Indigenous cultures has been condemned, embracing them in art practice has generated not only fasciation (e.g. Hayao Miyazaki & Haruki Murakami) but also effective preservation of nature.

Can ikebana, as an art form with its origin in ancient Japan, provide any insights for contemporary environmental artists in their efforts to transform values and aesthetic sensibility?

In the 16th century, ikebana was defined as the symbolic representation of nature. It developed into an art form encompassing spiritual training in the pursuit of the harmonious coexistence of human beings and nature, regarding humans as part of nature.

However, the ikebana reform movement in 1930’s under the influence of the Western modernism declared ikebana to be only a form of art. Contemporary ikebana is still under the influence of that reformation, but a re-examination of the traditional values of ikebana might bring it into line with the aims of environmental art.

At Hanabishi Restaurant, Melbourne