By Panagiota Katsaveli,
Spring and summer are two seasons associated with bright colors, warm weather and of course lots of flowers! During spring the Earth is experiencing a period of regeneration and nature is reborn which has an effect on our mental health, uplifting our spirits. Especially the month of May is almost synonymous to flower crowns and frequent excursions in nature. Flowers and plants are powerful beings whose uniqueness is often neglected by the human population. In this light, it seemed only appropriate to take a look at the artist Makoto Azuma and the masterpieces he creates with his focus being nothing besides nature’s children.
Makoto Azuma, born in 1976, is a Japanese flower artist and pioneer of botanical sculpture. Growing up, he used to observe his father who is a chef, thus developing immense respect and thrill for the profession; to his mind cooking is a form of art quite similar to flower art since both activities give people the chance to pick, arrange and control natural materials. He moved to Tokyo with the intention to pursue a career in music, laying bass in a rock band, but the siren song of flowers lured him in. He became increasingly interested in flowers while working as a tradesman at the renowned Ota Market in Japan and then in 2001 he opened his own shop, Jardins des Fleurs, with the botanical photographer Shiinoki Shunsuke. As he explained, he sees a variety of similarities between flowers and music, which made him completely absorbed in this world. “Just like every rose has different characters, a sound differs depending on the player’s state of mind and the surrounding environment. Combining all these elements together to express something is basically the same process both in music and flower art,” he pointed out.
Azuma’s art of botanical sculpture has its roots in old-Japanese tradition, this genre is echoed in the ancient ikebana tradition. However, unlike this Japanese tradition which esteems precision and negative space, his work with floral arrangements is maximalist and even literally explosive! In his creations, he tries to take flowers to reach their limits, for instance by lighting them on fire or placing them on ice. When creating his artworks, he is not being conscious about his Japanese identity and heritage even though Japanese culture is rich and quite symbolic in relation to flowers. He pays attention to the flowers themselves, tries to listen to their voice and desires while simultaneously considering the seasons. Luckily, his country, Japan, has distinct seasonal differences that allow him to construct pieces unique to each season.
The very talented Japanese artist tries to push the boundaries between nature and art by placing his botanical arrangements in extreme, unusual conditions. His works have multiple purposes; on the one hand captivating the eyesight and on the other opening up a dialogue about major issues related to nature and existential concepts that concern humanity as a whole. He tries to push plants to their extreme -lighting them on fire or dropping them out of airplanes- to showcase not only their beauty, but also their strength and resilience. If we think about it, the way people treat our planet and natural environment already shows the sturdiness of plants. For example, the fires in different parts of the globe including the Amazon (the Earth’s lung) and the pollution of the oceans test the Earth on a daily basis. However, the artist makes it clear that he does not want his work to speak to environmental or sustainability issues directly; he wants people to figure things out by themselves. His works manage to function as painful remainders of what we can lose and the ephemerality of nature. Moreover, he makes a conscious effort to connect humans and flowers, to bring a sense of reverence for nature back in contemporary life. By paying attention to our lives, we can notice that flowers constitute our companion in some of our most important moments. They are symbols of love, vitality and many more positive emotions, so the need for them can only be increased.
Azuma has created many masterpieces that have caught public attention and raised its admiration. One of these masterpieces is his most famous work called “Exobiotanica”, featuring bonsai trees and flowers in space (more than 100.000 feet in the stratosphere). Placed in a careful manner the flowers float in between the cloud Earth surface and the blue of the outer space. Another series is “Sephirothic Flower: Diving into the Unknown” in which bouquets of flowers and bonsai trees have plunged into the deep ocean floor. The “Frozen Flowers” series includes arrangements in ice, snow and ice-covered landscapes, the “Flower and Man” series showcases human interactions with flowers in a variety of settings and the artist has even created a time-lapse video of the life cycle of flowers named “Shouting Flowers”. Makoto has gained such fame that he unsurprisingly caught the eye of the fashion world. As a result, he has worked with British Vogue magazine and many fashion brands to highlight their pieces. He has collaborated with Fendi and Hermes to name a few and his memorable installations are displayed in art galleries, concert halls and bookstores. He always finds ways to experiment and present the uniqueness of the living organisms he works with.
After saying so much about this talented individual named Makoto Azuma, it only seems appropriate to do more research in case you had not heard of him before. Flowers and plants are an important, integral part of the human experience and it is time to realize how special they truly are. Instead of taking them for granted we need to acknowledge that we need to take better care of them since humanity is not truly focused on protecting the environment and improving the existing conditions. Flowers are essentially one of the most colorful, magnificent and joyful parts of life, don’t you agree?
- Gessato, Makoto Azuma’s Floral Masterpieces. Available here.
- Foled Moleskine, Azuma Makoto: Listening to Flowers. Available here.