Wednesday, 16 July 2014

100 Years Later - Performance by Shuhô

Earlier this year I posted a note about a performance by ikebana artist Shuhô in the Portland Japanese Garden. I was happy to find her again on YouTube with a performance video from Palais de Tokyo in Paris. This performance was part of the exhibition 100 ans plus tard (100 years later) and was held at the opening June 5th.

Shuhô who has studied early ikebana styles from the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573), became the first Master of Ikebana studies at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto, in 2004. She has been promoting international exchanges through ikebana and the Zen arts worldwide. She is also in charge of programs and organization of Jisho-ji workshop Dojo founded at Ginkaku Jishô-ji in 2011. This study centre, open to the different artistic disciplines of Zen culture, has attracted a younger generation and brought a new boast to a long tradition that considers the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490), who built the Silver Pavilion and retired there to cultivate the traditional art, as the father of ikebana.

In 2013 Shuhô was invited by The Pavillon Neuflize OBC, the Palais de Tokyo’s creative laboratory, to collaborate on a project with the residents of the 2013-2014 program. The exhibition 100 ans plus tard is the result of these exchanges bringing together traditional practices and the contemporary arts.  There will also be with a second presentation in Japan in the fall.

Ikebana became 'the common experimenting ground on which mutual translation procedures were tested out—between languages, geographic and cultural zones, and between periods and practices—as a means of bypassing the exotic approach. The definition of a space, symbolized by the importance given to the vase in ikebana, has become one of the central elements of this collective experience. The vase is the tool of transmission and negotiation between the inside and the outside, between states (solid, liquid, gaseous) and between the elements of the composition. “In ikebana,” says Shuhô,  “when we gaze at a composition, we must pay attention to the mizugiwa [the edge of the water].” The exhibition is a container in which the artworks are reflected—a puddle of water in which, 100 years later, the forgotten memories of gestures, opinions and objects will still shimmer.'

As part of the exchange the participating artists have been invited to a work session in Kyoto, at the Ginkaku Jishô-ji. I wonder what they were talking about in the Dojo of the Silver Pavilion? We'll probably never know, but you can see some photos from the workshops  through this link.

If you understand Japanese you might be interested to look at this video with Shuho giving a demonstration in a Tokyo bookshop.

Three Iconic Vases

The use of bamboo vases in ikebana goes back to the tea masters of the 16th century. Using natural bamboo, so to say from the backyard, was a reaction to the lavish and overloaded esthetics of the palaces inspired by fashionable Chinese culture.

Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591)
Flower containers used in tea ceremonies are called hana-ire (flower holder). A hanaire made from bamboo is a take no tsutsu or take no hanaire. The earliest vases were either elongated tubes of bamboo with flowers put into the upper end (the tubes were usually too tall to stand on the floor), or tubes with a nicely shaped window cut out in one side of the vase to place the flowers through. Towards the end of the century the types of vases in use today were introduced.

"Onjoji" Ichiju-giri vase
artributed to Rikyu
Tokyo National Museum
It had been an uneventful day in the year 1590. Warlord Hideyoshi and his massive army are surrounding Odawara castle in an attempt to eliminate the rivaling Hōjō clan. The siege lasted for three months and has been called "the most unconventional siege lines in samurai history." To keep their spirits up the samurai were entertained by everything from concubines, prostitutes and musicians to acrobats, fire-eaters, and jugglers. In the camp was also the famous tea master Rikyū. Eight years earlier he had become a tea master for Hideyoshi. He was now in Hideyoshi's circle of confidants, and the most influential figure in the world of chanoyu. This particular evening Rikyū hosted a night tea gathering. While the participants waited for news from the front, instead of the kaiseki meal usually served at this kind of gathering, Rikyū introduced a flower-arranging competition with Hideyoshi as judge.

The story of this unusual competition is also a story about the use of bamboo vases in ikebana. For the occasion Rikyū had improvised prototypes for three new kinds of vases made from bamboo, that are still in use today. In contrast with earlier types with carefully carved delicate openings, Rikyū's vases had openings made by sawing and knocking out pieces of the walls.

"Ikkyoku" Shakuhachi-giri vase
attributed to Rikyu
Tokyo National Museum
The three types of vases were an ichijū-giri, a vase with one opening on the side, to be hanging on the wall and displaying flowers that grow above eye-level, a tube shaped shakuhachi-giri, standing on the floor with flowers that bloom below eye-level (One source that I found describes it as a simple bamboo tube used upside-down, with one node and a slight undulation, which has a surface effect called "sesame seed."), and a nijū-giri with two levels, that was used to hold the bunches of flowers and branches waiting to be arranged. It's also been said that Hideyoshi was asked to arrange the branches in the upper level of this vase.

Woodblock print, Samurai with ikebana
Rikyū died the year after the siege of Odawara. The three vases became classics and according to tradition they have all survived history and are still to be seen. The ichijū-giri, later known as Onjōji, and a shakuhachi-giri named Ikkyoku is in Tokyo National Museum. A shakuhachi-giri named Shaku-hachi is supposedly in the collection of the Urasenke Sen family. The nijū-giri named Yonaga can be seen in the Fujita Museum in Osaka.

The information in this blog post is gathered from the following sources:

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Branches Sweeping Over a Valley

Bamboo vase, Seika style.
Pear branches, Aster, Carnations.

Long overdue, I'm posting the last of this spring terms exercises with arrangements inspired by the traditional Seika style. I love bamboo vases, but unfortunately I don't have any like this at home, so this one is my teachers. Since bamboo vases crack easily from drying up or from the tension of komi sticks used to fix the flowers, it's best to have a bamboo tube with copper cups in the compartments to hold the water.

This kind of arrangement is called Niju-ike. Niju means double-level, and you'll need a tall bamboo tube converted into a two-level container for this style. The top holds the main arrangement with branches sweeping sideways. The smaller arrangement in the window further down on the vase usually holds seasonal cut flowers. I've made this group also a little bit tilting to balance the branches at the top, but it can also be made in a straighter form that remains totally inside the window. This will give a very peaceful result. Niju-ike is a much loved old poetic style depicting a grand view of the nature, with the beaches of an old tree on a cliff sweeping over a valley with humble flowers.

Kakebana, Seika style.
Pear blossoms and Aster.

This second arrangement is a Seika style made to hang on a wall. Kakebana is a word used for all arrangements hanging from a wall. This kind of Seika is usually a small and quite informal arrangement. As with all Seika arrangements it's important that the three branches are very clean at the base and placed together so as to look like one stem coming up from the vase.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Portland - Sogetsu Ikebana Rose Festival Exhibition 2014

I found this video of this years Portland Rose Festival ikebana exhibition. I visited the Portland, Oregon branch of Sogetsu ikebana earlier this year and was happy to find a video of their most resent exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden. I hope you enjoy it too.

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