Monday 29 April 2013

Nancy Stalker Lecture - Re-thinking Traditional Arts: Ikebana in Japan's Postwar Recovery

"Few societies take as much pride as the Japanese in a reputation for a refined aesthetic in appreciating and cultivating nature. Ikebana, a discipline focused on the manipulation of flowers and plant material for decorative and artistic purpose, is a major aspect of this reputation. 
With over ten million students at its peak in the 1960s, and more than three thousand officially registered schools, ikebana was (and remains) one of the nation’s largest cultural industries. Like nearly all of Japan's traditional arts, ikebana began as a wholly male pursuit, an arena to demonstrate wealth and cultural capital. Early twentieth century educational reforms, highly conscious of the Western gaze, made ikebana part of girls' school curriculum, resulting in a complete reversal of the gender ratio. While men continued to dominate the positions of ikebana headmasters and senior teachers, opportunities for women's labor and leisure increased steadily, spiking in the postwar period. 
This presentation examines growth, competition, and transformation among the three leading schools of ikebana. It interrogates how these organizations shifted flexibly in response to emerging trends in art, market competition and women's changing lifestyles."

Saturday 27 April 2013

Simple Things

Strelitzia and Piony leaf.
Leftovers without kenzan.

A very simple and unpretentious arrangement of leftovers, using crossbar fixing. Wishing you a moment of joy!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Iemoto Ikebana Live in LA

IemotoIkebanaLIVE - A Spectacular Theatrical Presentation of Ikebana Flower Arranging, by Akane Teshigahara, Iemoto if the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, in her first IemotoIkebanaLIVE Performance in the United States.

2:00 pm, Saturday, April 27, 2013, The Aratani Japan America Theater, Los Angeles.

Tickets: $60. Purchase online at

The Sogetsu Seminar recurs every four years in various cities throughout North America, presenting workshops, lectures and receptions for ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) enthusiasts arriving from all parts of the world. As part of its five day seminar, Sogetsu North America and Sogetsu Los Angeles presents this rare event for a public audience: a special theatrical performance where the Iemoto (Headmaster) of the school from Tokyo creates a spectacular stage-sized flower arrangement, live, on-stage.

Los Angeles Times: 'Ikebana Live' Japans rock star of floral art hits LA stage.

Monday 22 April 2013

Ikebana and Sculpture - Rosalie Gascoigne

In this blog post I'm simply going to show you a couple of sculptures by New Zealander-Australian sculptor Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999). Rosalie Gascoigne held her first serious exhibition at age 57. Nevertheless she is recognized as a major figure in the Australian art world.

The reason I want to draw your attention to this artist is that she started up as a Sogetsu ikebana practitioner in the time that Sofu Teshigahara was leading the Sogetsu School. Dissatisfied with the limitations of this art form, she later went on to working with sculpture and assemblages, first small scrap iron sculptures and later wooden boxed assemblages, composed of materials she found in her environment.

Rosalie Gascoigne, Steam, 1972-3.
Steel,  copper and grass.
This passage from ikebana to sculpture in many ways echoes Sofu's work with scrap metal sculptures and found objects. In Sofu's case, however, there is no definite distinction between ikebana and sculpture. It would be interesting to look more into the history behind the career of Rosalie Gascoigne, and how she came to the decision to leave ikebana behind in her artistic work. Maybe this Gascoigne quotation gives a hint:
"Things in other peoples [sic] work influence you and I am all for that as long as you make it your own thing. You know, you want to speak louder than they do when you have finished." (Mary Eagle, ‘Letters to Martin 1971–1980’ in From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne, 2000, pp. 53, 55)
Rosalie Gascoigne, The Crop I, 1976.
Salsify heads,  galvanised wire,  galvanised iron.
I have choosen two early works that in my opinion could also have been categorized as ikebana. Rosalie Gascoigne also made more complex assemblages with a variety of found objects. If you want to see more of her works you could start by visiting the collection of Art Gallery NSW and this flickeflu set by Hellblazer.

Melbourne based ikebana artist Shoso Shimbo will present a paper on Gascoigne at a conference in Osaka in May this year. The paper "Ikebana to Contemporary Art: Cross Cultural Transformation in Rosalie Gascoigne" is due to be published. Look out for more information on Shoso's blog.

Installation Plain Air, 1994, Charles Nodrum Gallery.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Steel Grass - Curved Lines

Moribana, abstract freestyle.
Curved lines, Two containers.
Steel grass, Cherry branches, Gerbera and pine.

Spring is a season with strong energy. In ikebana this is often represented by curved lines with large, dramatic movements. The Steel grass from an earlier arrangement with straight lines, have been re-used to emphasize the curved lines of this arrangement.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Steel Grass - Straight Lines

Moribana, abstract freestyle.
Vertical arrangement, two containers, without kenzan.
Steel grass, Cherry branches, Gerbera and pine.

In this spring arrangement a modern geometric container is combined with a traditional old fashioned bamboo vase. The bamboo vase with a mass of pine needles in the opening represents a long life and the strength to take what comes. In contrast to these elements, the pink flowers and the branches with cherry blossom buds represents the ephemeral moment that is experience here and now. A long life is lived in a myriad of short moments. The steel grass emphasizes the strong energy of new life.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Andy Goldsworthy - Floating Plant Materials

While I'm still focusing on the Land Art artist Andy Goldsworthy, I'd like to present two smaller works that I feel are particularly interesting from an ikebana perspective. In both cases water is as an important   component in the work.

This first work with Iris leaves and rowen berries is floating on the surface and also has a fleeting character - when the water moves it will probably disintegrate quite quickly.

My first thought when I saw this work was that It could very well have been made by an ikebana artist. Any Sogetsu ikebana practitioner would recognize it as an ukibana, a floating flower arrangement, which is a special category of ikebana. This particular work would be a typical abstract free style arrangement, using mass and line as well as contrasting colours. Iris leaves is a material often used in ikebana, and a material with a deep symbolic meaning.

The second work is not floating, but it uses the reflection of the water to complete the shape. This work also uses clean lines, but in this case curved or circular lines which is also much used in ikebana. By repeating the geometric form asymmetrically a rhythmic movement is created. It looks like the material is some kind of water plant or it could be split bamboo.

I hope you have enjoyed my stop in the world of Andy Goldsworthy. If you want to see more there are a lot of videos on YouTube. You can even see a full version of the award winning documentary Rivers and Tides about Goldsworthy and his work.

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