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Situated in the tradition of ikebana yet using unconventional methods, the flower artist addresses the dialectic of beauty and decay, artificiality and nature.
Balance in Japanese ikebana and garden design is described as asymmetric, off-centered and based on triads. What can you tell us about these concepts? Beauty in asymmetry is an especially interesting topic, as it relates to the symbolic cognition that characterizes the human brain.
When I create my botanical works, I’m not necessarily that conscious of asymmetry per se—I just listen to the sound of flowers, watch their unique shapes and get inspired by them. Every day I take a walk around my studio and atelier, observing the slight changes in the season and atmosphere of each day. The growing speed of flowers and plants is so much faster than that of human life. One has to be vigilant to catch the beauty that only exists for a moment.
Since inventing the genre of the “botanical sculpture,” you have created arrangements and installations of spectacular and mesmerizing beauty, which often incorporate frozen or dead flowers and plants. What can you tell us of the dialectic of beauty and decay, artificiality and nature?
I am always very conscious of the concepts of life and death. Every flower and plant has its own cycle: it blooms, withers, and eventually turns to manure for new lives to feed on. Whatever moment you capture within this process, it never fails to mesmerize. Life and death exist next to each other—that, I think, is where the beauty lies.
In pursuing your various projects—including the “haute couture” flower shop Jardins des Fleurs in Ginza, Tokyo, and the book Encyclopedia of Flowers, now in its second volume—you have established an ongoing partnership with botanical photographer Shiinoki Shunsuke. How important are these photographs to your work, and to your pursuit of beauty?
Because flowers are so short-lived, it is crucial to capture their moment of existence through photographs. Shiinoki is my right hand; we have been working together for over fifteen years now, and he knows his way with flowers. His images capture their tenuous existence, fragile forms, vivid colors, continuous metamorphoses and inevitable decay.
Makoto Azuma (Japanese, b. 1976) is a flower artist who lives and works in Tokyo. Encyclopedia Of Flowers Part 2 was recently released by Seigensha and Lars Müller Publishers.
Cristina Travaglini is Managing Editor of Kaleidoscope and Kaleidoscope Asia.
Artwork by Azuma Makoto, Photo credit: Shiinoki Shunsuke