I appreciate the peaceful beauty of plants as much as I love art and sculpture. So, there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t enjoy the 2-day exhibit of Japanese flower arrangements by the Bangalore chapter of the Ohara school of Ikebana, titled ‘Chiguru – A New Beginning’ at Ganjam Mantapa, Bangalore on the 13th & 14th of January 2018.
The Bangalore chapter in RT Nagar was started by Shyamala Ganesh in 1985 as a study group and achieved the chapter status three years later in 1989.
The exhibit featured an exquisite display of ikebana arrangements and I had a special artist-led tour where I learned so much about Ikebana.
Archana Shah, one of the artists, Ikebana student and exhibitor from the Ohara school of Ikebana, said ikebana, also known as the “way of flowers,” is the art of Japanese flower arrangement.
“This ikebana exhibit is an annual, special exhibit with floral installations featuring many varieties of flowers, branches, bamboo and unconventional materials,” Shah said. I even spotted a special Sankranthi tribute arrangement with sugarcane, coconut, jaggery and sesame seeds. The arrangements ranged from traditional to whimsical and I couldn’t stop admiring the restraint used by each artist in using a limited number of flowers, leaves to depict a very nature-inspired setting.
For the uninitiated, Ikebana is not simply putting flowers in a vase, it is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. It’s not just a floral arrangement either because, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and puts emphasis on shape, line, and form. It is truly an expression of creativity, although certain rules govern its form. The artist’s intention behind each arrangement shines through a piece’s color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the implied meaning of the arrangement.
There is one exclusive aspect present in ikebana that I’m absolutely in awe of – its employment of minimalism. Some arrangements may consist of only a minimal number of flowers interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of some Japanese flower arrangements is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, human, and earth, or sun, moon, and earth. The container can be a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery are used in their construction.
Consideration of the vase as being something more than a mere holder of the flowers is purely Japanese. They think of the surface of the water, which they always expose, as the surface of earth from which the group springs. This aids in creating the effect of representing a complete plant growing as nearly as possible in its natural conditions.
Vimala Srinivasan, 75 who is one of the older exhibiting artists and has been practicing the art for more than 30 years said, “Because ikebanists love plants, many are also gardeners who enjoy growing plants with interesting leaf, flower and branch details of various sizes, shapes, textures and colors that they can use in arrangements.”
“In Bangalore, traditional plants from gardens are aplenty and we use a wide variety of plants from our own gardens but source all our indiginous, exotic flowers from a florist called Black Tulip Flowers in Koramangala, Bangalore,” Shah said, adding that, “favorite exotic plants and materials include Protea, Pincusion, Salexpussyvello, Spidermoms, paloverde, driftwood, creosote and iris.”
For all the men who feel hesitant around flowers – art has no gender. Ikebana has always been considered a dignified accomplishment. All of Japan’s most celebrated generals have been masters of this art, finding that it calmed their minds and made clear their decisions for the field of action. That warriors like Hideyoshi and Yoshimasa, two of Japan’s most famous generals, found benefit in the practise of ikebana shows that it is valuable training, even for the masculine mind.
After getting my eyeful at this flower lovers heaven, I encourage anyone who enjoys art and gardening to not miss the next chance you get to see an Ikebana exhibit, as well as to consider learning the art.