Thursday 29 October 2009

One Family - Two Schools

The position as head or Iemoto of an ikebana school is often inherited in the family of the founder. In earlier posts I've been blogging about how Sofu Teshigahara started the Sogetsu School of Ikebana in 1927. When Sofu died in 1979 his daughter Kasumi became the second Iemoto of the school. Her career was cut short by her early death in 1980, and her brother Hiroshi Teshigahara became the third Iemoto of the Sogetsu School. The present Iemoto, Akane Teshigahara is the daugther of Hiroshi.

Today Sogetsu is one of the largest ikebana schools worldwide. But it is not the only school inherited in the Teshigahara family. The father of Sofu, Wafu Teshigahara, was also an ikebana artist and had started a school of his own long before Sofu, the eldest son, left to form a new style of ikebana.

The Wafu School was founded in 1896 by Wafu Teshigahara. He had originally been trained in the Misho School in the town west of Osaka where the family lived at that time, before moving to Tokyo about 1906. When Wafu died in 1930, his next eldest son took over leadership of the school, adopting the name Wafu. Wafu II is the man on the lovely photo to the left, showing off an ikebana arrangement with fruit bearing branches. Today, his grandson, Wafu III, heads the school and is grooming his only child, a daughter, to lead the school in the future.

Compared to the Sogetsu School the Wafu School is a much smaller School. With it's Headquarter in Tokyo, the school has chapters throughout Japan and in other countries, including the U.S. where there is a large and active chapter in California. Wafu ikebana emphasizes the natural beauty of plant materials. It's a modern approach to ikebana with the motto "Arrange the flowers that you like - suitably - in a container that you like."

Information on Wafu School of Ikebana provided by Nancy Locke, Instructor and Publicity Chairperson, San Francisco.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Moon Flowers - In Bed With a Goddess

moonflowers dimly white
in fading light
how pure: the moon rises

poem by Shimagi Akahiko (1876-1926)

From my bedroom window I have a good view of the moon at night. Moon-viewing, Otsukimi, has a special place in Japanese tradition. The brilliant glow of the full autumn moon is concidered to be the best. These traditional gatherings with writing and reading of special poems and listening to music while enjoying the mystical wonder evoked by the moon, are of cource much more organised than my moon-veiwing from bed.

For a Japanese moon-viewing you need a flower arrangement, always with light coloured flowers, preferably in a special moon vase. The flowers are said to be landmarks for the moon goddess descending from the heavens. The arrangements I'm posting today are waxing moon arrangements in round moon vases that are traditionally hanging from the ceiling. The materials are bamboo, Japanese maple, some unidentified branches and white Chrysanthemum, an autumn flower that in these arrangements can symbolize the moon goddess descending into the vase she has mistaken for the moon.

Research for this post: Japan National Tourism Organization.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Birthday Ikebana Greetings

This post is to congratulate one of the best Norwegian painters of today on her birthday. Inger Sitter has been exhibiting her paintings since she was 14 years old. This very day she turns 80, and is still working. Inger Sitter was born in Trondheim in 1929. Early in her career she was influenced by American artists such as de Kooning and Rauschenberg, but it is the French post-war art that has been her greatest source of inspiration. Today she is a highly respected painter with her own characteristic expression of lyrical, expressive abstractions.

This ikebana arrangement was created with a direct inspiration from the artwork by Inger Sitter shown in the photo. The arrangement is from last year and the materials are red painted drift wood and Hanging Birch.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Autumn Colours and Frosty Leaves

This week I've been met by frost on the grass in the mornings. Winter is getting closer. I've tryed to grasp the freshness of those early morning hours before the sun warms the air in an ikebana arrangemnet with several vases. The bright red of the Japanese Maple is enhenced by the blue ceramic vases. White veils of Gypsophila adds a frosty feeling. The idea is to use the space inbetween the vases to create a sculptural arrangement.

In the other arrangement the vases are connected by bamboo sticks. Orange Gerbera and Montbretia (Crocosmia) adds autumn colour. But it's the tention between the vases and the spaces created by the sticks that defines this arrangement.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Visiting The Studio of Sofu

When Sofu Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu School in 1926, it all started up in a small scale. After causing some turbulence in Japan in the 1930s for its non traditional style, nothing much happened until after World War II. Ikebana was a popular activity among the wives of US army soldiers stationed in Japan after the war, and they helped spread the practice of ikebana around the world.

The interest in Sogetsu ikebana seems to have exploded in those years. Sofu's book "Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements", published in the early 1950s reports that the followers of his school exceeds 400000.

Although it looks a bit simple to the modern eye, this must have been an impressive book in it's time. I may be wrong, but to me it looks like some of the color photos are actually hand-coloured black and white photos. Hand-colouring of photographs was a popular techinique in Japan from the 1860s, and stayed popular long after it was concidered old fashioned in the West. You'll find many of the classic Sofu ikebana arrangements with comments in the book: Quite a few of Sofu's large scale sculptural ikebana with dried wood and stone, and a series of miniatyr ikebana "Pygmé flowers" in small vases and lipstick conatiner tops. There are also really nice interior pictures from the studio of Sofu and work in progress pictures showing Sofu in action. A whole series of photos shows a team of helpers constructing the large scale work "The Locomotive". It even has the sketches by Sofu's hands.

The wide range of ikebana arrangements and the photos from Sofu's studio is what makes this a true reference book. There is also a rich biographic presentation of Sofu's life and background written by art historian and art critic Sumio Mizusawa, telling the seldom told story about the father of Sofu who founded "Japan Floral Institute" and chocked the ikebana establishment by introducing a teaching technique with dial plates and fixed numbers of degrees for the positions of the flowers. Although Sofu emphasized the free expression and introduced the modern free style and avantgarde ikebana, he stuck to his fathers teaching methods for the basic styles. These methods are still in use by all the major ikebana schools.

It's difficult to find this book today. I've seen it listed with publication year varying from 1947 to 1954. It sometimes has a modernistic drawing and sometimes a photo of an ikebana arrangement on the dust jacket. In my opinion it's worth buying even in a less than perfect condition.

Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements
by Sofu Teshigahara
With "Sofu Teshigahara - His Life And Art" by Sumio Mizusawa
Photo by Ken Domon
Studio Publications Inc, New York, undated, ca 1950-1952
Hardcover, 84 pages, colour and black and white photos.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Sogetsu Surrealism

Today I finally found pictures of the surrealistic ikebana arrangements by Sofu Teshigahara that I promised to post. You'll find my last blog post on the subject through this link.

In the 1930s Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu school, started creating works that had references to contemporary western art. The first one I've come across is one of his most famous arrangements, named "The Locomotive". I'm posting it together with a Man Ray portrait of Marcel Duchamp, surrounded by some of his scrap metal sculptures in his New York studio in 1915. Sofu adds plant materials and brings the Duchamp reference into the ikebana tradition in an unexpected way.

The second work by Sofu that I would like to point towards is named "The Kyozo", which if I am correct refers to a storehouse for sutras. It's a mass arrangement made of drift wood and dried materials, devided into two separate parts. Sofu himself said about this arrangement: "I have intended to bring about a feeling of tension, or traction, between the two groups...".

This is one of my favorites. It invokes in me the dream landscape by Max Ernst in the painting "The Eye of Silence", 1943-44, which is a painting made in decalcomania technique. It has the same colour range and texture feeling as the avantgarde piece by Sofu. It even has a column of space through which you can see the sky.

"The Kyozo" also brings to live an old traditional style of ikebana that is rarely seen. The double shin Rikka has all the features of a classic Rikka arrangement, but like "The Kyozo" it has a split all the way through it. All the material used has to be neatly trimmed to give room for the column of space between the two parts created by the split.

I've found these works by Sofu in a book from the 1950s. I'm not sure when they where first conceived or what meenings they had to the artist. When looking at them I make my own interpretations.

Quotation from Sofu Teshigahara "Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements" (undated, published in the 1950s).

Tuesday 6 October 2009

The Smell of Fall

Can you feel it - the earthy smell of wet leaves that fills the air when you walk through a park or enters the forest? Using autumn materials from the outdoors really gets me in a special mood. These are two eksamples of Kabu-Wake, arrangements with two groups, with focus on the space between the groups and on the water.
Free style Kabu-Wake: Fern and Asters.
Free style Kabu-Wake: Bamboo and Asters.

Monday 5 October 2009

Stealing Apples and Picking Berries

I've always been fascinated by apple trees. Maybe because it was to cold to grow apples were I was born - no apple stealing in my childhood. Still the thought of stealing apples takes me back to another time, another place. It must be something in our collective memory. I did pick a lot of berries though. Blueberries, raspberries and cloudberries. In a good year me and my sister and brother could pick enough to sell and earn some money. Those were the days. I still love the autumn, even though I don't pick my own berries anymore.

Autumn is special in ikebana too. The changes in nature are reflected in the choice of materials. It's a bit like bringing the outdoors indoors and living in the moment.

Stripped branches of Apple and Berberis.

Rowan and branches with black berries in a blue vase.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Monkey Business The Ikebana Way

I've heard of ikebana classes for children, but never before have I seen a chimpanzee ikebana artist. The result is very Sogetsu School with modern lines and materials cut in untraditional ways. The best part is the end where the chimp corrects the work of the ikebana teacher.

Five Elements: Water

I found a new video with ikebana artist Tetsunoru Kawana on YouTube. Remeber the guy that made the bamboo installation in The New York Botanical Garden last winter? This is from an installation work by Kawana earlier this year in Melbourne, Australia. Again - it's all bamboo and created with the help of local volontaires. This one is named "Five elements: Water".

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