Ikebana on steroids

Ikebana flower arranging, an old and respected art bound by many strict conventions, also has an avant-garde side. This can be seen in at least 15 experimental works on display in the Flower Art Award 2012 exhibition through tomorrow (April 22) in the Galleria shopping mall at the Tokyo Midtown complex. The works on show are distinctive in at least three ways.

The first thing that makes these arrangements different from the flowers you may have seen in a living room of a Japanese home is their scale. They’re huge. The photo at the top of this entry shows a piece by Sho Sogabe in which the main element is a tilted disk covered with dozens of roses. A string-guided waterfall trickling down from the ceiling of the atrium three stories overhead passes through the hole in the center of the disk, and additional strings with tiny ornaments dangling from the extend toward the ceiling at angles.

The second thing to set these works apart is their use of non-floral materials. It is not unusual to see twigs and stones in ordinary ikebana, and of course the ceramic vessels in which conventional arrangements are displayed are carefully chosen for their visual effect. But these works go further.

Motoko Minami and Minoru Nagai used birch trees:

Koji Nagasaki used bamboo and fabric:

Noriko Sato used gauze:

The third distinguishing characteristic of the works in the show is complex design. For instance, this is what the piece by Michiko Kitamura and Masaki Miyoshi looks like at first glance:

Move closer and you’ll notice that the spherical portion of the work includes feathers as well as flowers:

Get closer still, and you’ll see that the INSIDE of the sphere is filled with roses suspended in space:

Another work that cannot be done justice in a single photograph is by Takayuki Noguchi, Takashi Onizawa, Yuka Amagai and Miki Yokosuka:

It is a sculpture made of waribashi disposable chopsticks. From certain angles, it vaguely resembles a human head. If it were displayed in an art gallery against a background of plain bare walls, the image would be easy to recognize, but when one looks through it at the busy background of a shopping mall, it becomes much harder to discern. (Of course, if it were tucked away in an art gallery, fewer people would see it at all.) Here’s one of its eyes:

The last arrangement I photographed, by Yuichi Yoshimoto and Yasuyuki Kaburagi, was so weird that I don’t know what to say about it. I’ll leave you with these views of it:

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