Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ryusaku Matsuda - Bamboo Works

Today I would like to draw your attention to a contemporary ikebana artist who have also made Land Art related works. Ryusaku Matsuda (b.1948) is one of the more well known Japanese flower artists, with numerous exhibitions in the U.S., Canada and Japan on his record. Ryusaku Matsuda started up as a student at the Mami Flower Design School, so he has been influenced by the same design ideas as Keita Kawasaki whom I've written about in an earlier blog post on ikebana and Land Art. He also had a year of studies in Europe quite early in his career. Since 1993 he's been running Studio Matsuda. Interesting to know is also that another leading contemporary ikebana artist, Naoki Sasaki, is a former student of Matsuda.

Impermanence is the central concept in Matsuda's large-scale installations. He sees his works not as art objects but rather as snapshots within a process. The plants themselves are the key players, helped out by time they tell their own story. 'I've tried to discover the reasons why I create works that take both so much trouble and time and I've realized that my motives are likely to stem from my desire to spend as much time with plants as possible', Matsuda says.

Ryusaku Matsuda was one of the ikebana artist featured at the 2006 Echigo-Tsumari art festival, the first year of the festival's ikebana project. The photos of Matsuda's work are no longer on the Echigo-Tsumari website, but the description is still there if you want to read it.

For this blog post I've chosen works from two different series using bamboo as material. The first is "The shape of air", voluminous forms made from split bamboo that Matsuda have exhibited both as Land Art and in gallery exhibitions. The second series I've chosen, "Bamboo, shape", consists of variations on the natural shape of bamboo.

Ryusaka Matsuda
The Shape of Air.
Ryusaku Matsuda
The Shape of Air. Light Version.
Ryusaku Matsuda
Bamboo, Shape 1_1.
Ryusaku Matsuda
Bamboo, Shape 1_20.

The work of Ryusaku Matsuda has been featured in a Stichting book in their floral design series:

Contemporary Floral Art
by Ryusaku Matsuda
Stichting Kunstboek, 2008
ISBN: 9789058562999

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Yayoi Kusama at Echigo-Tsumari

Yayoi Kusama, Tsumari in bloom (2003).

"Tsumari is a noble land. It is a land enriched by tolerance that embraces all forms of art. As I watched my huge open-air flower sculpture being installed I felt a deep serenity. Like the flowers, I basked in the air of Echigo-Tsumari and the beatiful sunshine pouring from heavens. I hope that people from all over the world come to see this Triennial and are impressed by finding so much art nestled in its green forests and deep groves. Hurrah for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial! Tsumari in Bloom is my favorite among all of the open-air sculptures that I have created for several places in Japan and other parts of the world."

Monday, 21 January 2013

Beehive Cubism

Beehive boxes, dried Hydrangea, Mitsumata, Pine.

It's time to post another avant-garde style ikebana arrangement. My Sogetsu ikebana teacher challenged me to use some old wooden boxes from beehives that she had found out in the forest. The boxes have a strong expression and a lot of wabi-sabi quality to them. You just have to let them play the leading role, letting their straight lines and the heavy mass feeling define the arrangement.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, cubism was one of the modern art movements that inspired Sofu Teshigahara to leave out the flowers for untraditional materials in his modernized avant-garde approach to ikebana. Cubism and beehives goes well together. The obscure darkness and the flowing lines of Mitsumata also ads a dreamlike surrealist influence.

This other photo shows an earlier an more complex version of the beehive arrangement. This one has more of a Fernand Léger cubism feeling to it. On the other hand it is not as peaceful as the later version. Which one do you prefer?

Beehive boxes, Mitsumata, Ornamental kale.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hiroki Ohara at Echigo-Tsumari

In addition to the exhibition in the Ikebana House there have also been other ikebana related works exhibited at the Echigo-Tsumari Art TriennalHiroki Ohara headmaster of the Ohara School of ikebana  was represented in 2009 and in 2012 with the following works:

"Approximately 400 painted plywood panels are placed along the gutters of rice paddy fields. Grass and flowers poke out through numerous holes in the panels [The exhibit lasted 3 months]. The work conveys the strength of nature’s life force against the backdrop of the artificial colors of the panels." 

"In a location inside a shrine with a great view of the Kiyotsu River flowing by, a large object of art is placed. Using driftwood as the main material and applying a variety of treatments, the artist has created a bold work of ikebana."

Photo credit: Echigo-Tsumari Art Field.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Ikebana House - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale

Every three years the worlds largest outdoor art festival, The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is held in the Echigo-Tsumari region, in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. In an attempt to bring fresh attention to this depopulated part of Japan art works are displayed in abandoned houses and outdoors around the village over a vast area. From the information I've found it looks like there is a nice mix between well established artists and more experimental works. For example one of the houses holds the installation Dream House by Marina Abramovic.

What really got me ticking while reading about Echigo-Tsumari is that there is also a house with modern experimental ikebana installations. The Ikebana House started as a project in 2006 as a show place for modern ikebana installations. Through a series of festivals, 2006, 2009 and 2012 Group F consisting of ikebana artists from different schools have displayed in the abandoned town community building in Yomogihira as part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale.

Group F is an all male group with the following members: Udagawa Riou, Otsuka Rishi, Oyoshi Shozan, Kasuya Akihiro (Head master of the Ichiyo School), Kato Satoru, Shimoda Takatoshi, Nagai Rihito, Hayakawa Shodo, Hinata Yoichi, Yoshimura Takashi, Otubo Kosen, Koizumi Michio.

Please leave a comment or send me a message if you now more about the Ikebana House or have been there yourself. I'm very much interested in learning more about this project.

This video takes you on a tour of the 2009 ikebana house exhibition.

If you want to see more from this exhibition there are quite a few pictures from a visit to the 2009 festival on this blog. The blogger really enjoyed the stop at the ikebana house and gives a good report of the installations and the artists.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Metal and Stones

"Zen Writing", metal strips, stones, dried Aspidistra leaf.

One of the specialities of the Sogetsu school is ikebana without flowers. When Sofu Teshigahara, first  headmaster and founder of the school, introduced zen-eibana or avant-garde ikebana it was a sensation and the talk of the town. Sofu felt that ikebana could be arranged with any kind of materials and should always be in dialogue with contemporary culture. At this time he was very fascinated with the modern European art movements, such as Cubism and Surrealsim. Sofu's son, Hiroshi Teshigahara, later said that one should only use flowers in ikebana when there is a need for it, and every single flower should  have a purpose. Because flowers are beautiful by nature they can easily make an arrangement too "pretty" or decorative. When that happens the ikebana arrangement will loose its strength. Now, that's an interesting and different perspective, isn't it?

When working with this metal strip material I felt attracted to its sweeping qualities. It also reminded me of the artistic paint brush strokes of Japanese calligraphy. That's how I came up with the idea that the metal could mimic an experience of intuitive zen writing. The dried Aspidistra leaf adds a reference to traditional ikebana.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Art Photo - Trees and Lines

A naked tree trunk can be an inspiring starting point for a work of art. These land art works, the first by Flemish photographer Michiel Hendryckx and the two last by Welsh photographer Zander Olsen,   bears some striking similarities. With an emphasis on straight lines, both photographers are using white colour to mark the horizon behind the trees on the tree trunk. While Hendryckx is using paint, Olsen is using some kind of fabric.

Zander Olsens series Tree, line has been widely spread on the internet. He defines his works as "site specific intervention of the landscape”, wrapping trees with white material “to construct a visual relationship between tree, not-tree and the line of horizon according to the camera’s viewpoint".

Michiel Hendryckx, Brandenburg - 1995

To me it looks like these works were created with the photographic result in mind and with the perspective of looking through the camera lens from the very start of the creative process.

These photos also remind me of ikebana artist Keita Kawasaki and his tree works that I posted in an earlier blog post. You'll find the blog post on Keita Kawasaki through this link. Kawasaki also relates the tree to it's natural surrounding landscape by adding lines on the tree trunks. But in his work it is not in relation to the horizon behind the tree, but rather to the beams of sunlight in between the trunks, which is of course also more related to the organic life of the tree.

Zander Olsen, Beeches 2004

   Zander Olsen, Untitled (Cader) 2008

Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Year Ikebana by Megumi

Megumi Schacher is a Sogetsu ikebana teacher based in Seattle, US. I came across this video where she demonstrates a beautiful New Year arrangement with Pine and Mizuhiki, a special paper cord often used in New Year's ikebana arrangements. Note how the plant materials are placed in groups and kept apart, highlighting the colour of each material.

In Japanese culture New Year is usually celebrated over several days, so it's not too late it you want to try a New Year arrangement at home.

There are more nice ikebana arrangements on the website Ikebana by Megumi.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Spencer Byles - A Year in a French Forest

Somewhere in the forests close to Mougins in South of France a collection of land art sculptures are hidden like secret treasures in a remote landscape. The 20 or so site-specific temporary installations are part of the project A Year in a French Forest 2011-2012 by British artist Spencer Byles. "Their hidden quality is something that I feel is integral to this aspect of my work", Byles says. The temporary nature of the sculptures is another relevant aspect: "I feel my sculptures are only really completed when nature begins to take hold again and gradually weave its way back into the materials". The project is continually being documented on a blog with photos of the sculptures and the process of making them.

Wowen Frame, photo: Spencer Byles.
This photo is from an earlier project in England. From an ikebana perspective I think this is one of Byles more interesting sculptures. It has a line and mass structure and a nice contrast in colour and texture. It also has movement and well defined areas of space, and the design is asymmetric. What else? This excursion into the forest is part of a study in land art and a search for a vocabulary. What qualities would you look for in ikebana related land art?

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