Art & Architecture: ‘Arranged Tree’ and Then Some

Ikebana Some people will get rid of their Christmas tree tomorrow. Some will keep it put until brown overcomes the evergreen. With tape, rebar, and the right Ikebana skills, it can carry on a whole other presence, though.

Most people know of Ikebana (生け花  ‘arranged flower’), maybe only through references in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos, but contemporary Ikebana is even less spotlit. This juniper trunk and limb arrangement from the Ryusei annual exhibition is a great example of it and how it is still an evolving, growing art. Even without knowing the roots or integral philosophy of the 600 year old practice, it can impact with mathematical, geometric allure and highlight the oft under-appreciated, small elements in nature.

Artists like Tetsunori Kawana even take ideas from ikebana to installation scales. In almost the same way Brutalist architects used concrete and large moves to define space, Kawana shapes strong, graceful gestures from the flexible, singular material of bamboo. His works, in their material choice and forms, enjoyably intersect the fleeting, organic nature of traditional Ikebana with the more permanent, grandiose nature of traditional architecture.

Also of note in the contemporary expansion of Ikebana is Yukio Nakagawa, in particular his Ondes Oniriques (‘Dreamlike Waves’) at Renzo Piano’s Maison Hermes in Tokyo. While Piano created a space of regularity and gridding, Nakagawa was able to reshape the interior into a rolling, deciduous landscape. He commanded the master architect’s design, a compliment to both, with bale-fulls of dried blossoms in transient, visitor-moveable piles. Perhaps Ai Weiwei’s Tate Sunflower Seeds respond in this progression in contemporary Ikebana to its most modern minimal, though that may be pushing it. Either way, it is nice to see a unique tradition and artform blend with landscape and architecture as it keeps growing, interacting, and divulging something to a contemporary crowd.

Juniper Ikebana courtesy of Sato/Yoshimura from:

Ondes Oniriques images courtesy of hermes japon co.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop:

Shosho Shimbo’s Ikebana Blog: