Sunday, 30 November 2014

Japan Spirit and Form - The Rimpa School

What a good timing! This documentary on the Rimpa school that I recently came across, makes a nice follow up to my previous post abut Rimpa inspired ikebana. The video gives an introduction to the style and show the most iconic Rimpa paintings. It also discusses how the Rimpa style, with its stylized and simplified forms of nature, fascinated people in the West after Japan was opened up to the rest of the world. It's interesting to see how this Japanese school of art had a great influence on the new Art Nouveau style, coming up in Paris around the turn of the century.

“The Rimpa School Crosses the Ocean” is the fifth episode of the 1989 NHK series, “Japan: Spirit and Form”. If you have the time there is a lot to learn by watching the whole series:
#1 “Form at the Beginning” - Ceramics from the Jomon period
#2 “The Meeting of the Gods and Buddha” - The relationship between Shintoism and Buddhism
#3 Discovery of the “Pure Land” - The Kamakura Period of Japanese history
#4 Japanese Ink Painting: Landscapes of the Mind

Monday, 24 November 2014

Rimpa Inspiration

Rimpa inspired ikebana, Autumn Landscape.
Iris, Ornamental cabbage, yellow and purple Chrysanthemum, Ornithogalum.
Five materials, multiple containers.

Rimpa style ikebana is one of the trade marks of the Ohara school of ikebana. It is based on the highly decorative landscape paintings of the Rimpa School, a style that originated in 17th century Kyoto and flourished during the Edo Period. The Rimpa ikebana was created in 1964 by the late iemoto Houn Ohara.

Since Rimpa ikebana is a style that interprets traditional Japanese paintings, it is an interesting exercise no matter what school you are studying with. It gives a deeper understanding of fundamental principles of Japanese esthetics and arts. The Sogetsu school does not teach Rimpa ikebana, but encourages more advanced students to make Rimpa arrangements inspired by the Ohara style.

Spring Landscape, unknown Rimpa school painter,
18th century, six-screen ink and gold on paper. (Wikipedia)

Friday, 21 November 2014

Haiku Interpretations

Bulrush, Aspedistra, Stock.
Straight and curved lines, focusing on water.

Over the suspended bridge
in mad confusion
cold lines of rain

This haiku is supposedly by Yosa Buson (1716-1784), but I haven't been able to confirm this information. It's been translated from Norwegian to English for the purpose of sharing it in this blog post. If you recognize the haiku and have information about it, or if you know of an English translation, it would be of great help if you posted a comment or contacted me.

Chrysanthemum, Larch tree, Pine, Mulberry bark.
Curved lines, two containers.

The temple bell dies away
the scent of flowers in the evening
is still tolling the bell

Matsuo Basho 1644 – 1694 (translated by RH Blyth)

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Renka - Playful and Rhythmical

What would you do if someone gave you five minutes to create an ikebana arrangement?  I have been surprised many times when I have looked at the watch after spending more than an hour on an arrangement. Still, ikebana is also about spontaneity and about catching what's in the moment.

The late iemoto of the Sogetsu school, Hiroshi Teshigahara, introduced the Renka style ikebana as a new form of working together on ikebana, and as an avant-garde approach to the classical world of Japanese arts. The poetry style of Renga is going back at least 900 years. It is a playful form of poetry were the first poet starts the poem with a vers setting a theme. The second poet continues with another verse, and so on until the poem is finished.

Renka Ikebana arrangement by Inger Lise Arnesen and Lennart Persson.

Hiroshi Teshigahara explained "Renka is interesting because the range of expression can be expanded by the clashing or the concurrence of two individual styles. The unexpected, unpredictable result from such cooperative work transcends the individual and makes it really interesting. The beginning work is expanded into all kinds of possibilities, so if it is not up to par, the whole work will fail."

Renka Ikebana arrangement, detail.
Bulrush, Stocks, Sansevieria trifasciata, Male fern, Carnation.

A fellow student and I were put to work on a renka arrangement as part of learning about ikebana and Japanese arts. We were taking turns creating the "verses" of the poetry, and since we hadn't got more than five minutes to finish each contribution it had to be intuitive and spontaneous. The clue is to repeat or comment on a theme, form or colour in the previous arrangements so that the result becomes one rhythmical and harmonious work. As in Renga poetry the completed form is not known before the last ikebana arrangement is finished.

Renka Ikebana arrangement, detail.
Sansevieria trifasciata, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Kiwi vine, Japanese Knotweed, 

I didn't have time to stay the whole class so my team mate finished off by connecting the different parts with bulrush straws, which was one of the materials we used.

Renka Ikebana arrangement, finished work. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Yuji Ueno Live at Connecticut College

We leave digital footprints wherever we go these days, not every step we take ends up on YouTube though. This video reports from ikebana artist Yuji Ueno's visit to Connecticut College. Using rocks and branches from the Arboretum to reflect the natural landscape, he builds a tall ikebana sculpture infront of an enthusiastic audience. He does a good job working with the natural balance of the materials and finally finds a way to get the rocks and branches to collaborate.

The video is produced by students at Connecticut College.

I recently posted a review of Ueno's book Japanese ikebana for every seasons. Click the link to read more.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Woodland Soft Mass

Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) Cala lilies and Carnation.

The contrast and balance between lines and masses is one of the most characteristic features of contemporary ikebana. Sometimes the arrangements draws on the textures of masses alone, without added lines.

These two arrangements are based  on the airy qualities of two woodland plants. Branches of Wood horsetail and Bilberry sprigs form a fluffy vail, almost covering the colorful flower focal points.

Soft masses are a variation of the more commonly used compact or strong mass arrangement. The arrangements needs to have a defined form without being heavy. The see-through quality of the materials gives the soft mass arrangements an attractive dreamlike appearance.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Carnations.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Utsurawa-ba in Oiso

It's been a while since I posted a video with the guys in Utsurawa-ba. Imai So-Sen (Ikebana) and Koyu (electric bass) are back in a larger format than the usual bar setting. This time with a performance at the Tokoin Temple in Oiso, a town with sandy beaches on the Sagami bay, Southeast of Tokyo. In this performance they are aslo joined by special guest Kengo Oshima (ikebana). Enjoy!

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