THE EVOLUTION OF IKEBANA: KAWANA TETSUNORI’S INSTALLATION AT THE NGV Jo Maindonald – TAASA Review June 2009
F rom ancient roots to contemporary art, the demands of the discipline of Ikebana – the balancing of tensions and requirement to show organic material at its best – has assured its survival and place in the contemporary art context. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Ikebana International in Melbourne, renowned international guest artist Kawana Tetsunori, has created Five Elements-Water, a huge bamboo sculpture, which will remain in the Grollo Equiset Garden at NGV International, St Kilda Rd, from May 15th 26th July. Kawana travels the world extensively to teach Ikebana, living in Hong Kong and now New York, creating huge works in New York, Boston and most recently in Moscow.
He has also worked successfully as an art director, including the winning Nagano demonstration for the Olympic Games, Lillehammer, Norway in 1994. He is a Master of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, and yet this NGV installation work is described as a `sculpture not Ikebana’.
Although clearly informed by his life work with the school and created with organic and natural materials shown to their highest potential, this huge work may not have the same elements that one would usually expect of an Ikebana work. Fully versed in the aesthetics of Ikebana, Kawana can work with the fundamentals of the discipline to create something new that is beyond Ikebana but which still allows us to see the essential value of this art form. The scale on which he works takes us far away from the generally accepted view of Ikebana as a flower show display where restrained arrangements, with their emphasis on plant material to express line, shape, form and space, compete with western displays of abundance. Kawana worked with both Sofu Tesigahara (1900-1979), founder of the Sogestsu School, and later his son and successor Hiroshi (1927-2001) who was also an avant-garde filmmaker...