In his work, acclaimed flower artist and pioneer in the field of botanical sculpture, Azuma Makoto, investigates the life-cycle of flowers from the moment of planting through to decomposition, adding sensitivity to the ikebana tradition of listening to flowers. He believes that working with flowers should start early at dawn, when communication with flowers happens telepathically - in his concept it is important that a florist treats flowers with respect and devotion. Intricately elaborate and perhaps bizarre, his work is emotionally provocative. Generally recognised as ‘living art’, his work draws from the Japanese concept of mono no aware, which loosely translates as “attraction to things that fade”. This concept deals with the transcendent and somehow gothic sentiment of death. There is also a sense of transience accompanied by the gratitude of being present to witness this fleeting moment. Everything is temporary, and this is a call for us to be present in the moment.
Azuma (b. 1976, Fukuoka) moved to Tokyo in 1997 to pursue a career in music. While waiting for his music career to take off, he began working at the Ota Market, one of the Japan’s largest flower and vegetable markets, and an unexpected passion for botany started to grow. By 1999, this experience had led him to manage a boutique flower shop in Tokyo’s Azabu-Juban district and in 2002, he opened ‘JARDINS des FLEURS’, in collaboration with photographer Shiinoki Shunsuke. Azuma’s work began to evolve from a career as florist into an artistic practice in 2005 when he began exploring the concept of botanical sculpture; this continues to be an important element of his signature style. Today, ‘JARDINS des FLEURS’ is more than a flower shop or studio; it is a place where one finds the authentic, organic beauty from nature. It is a work-in-progress laboratory where the light, humidity, temperature and even the volume of the music are optimised with the only intent of looking after the well-being of flowers.
Azuma has transcended the traditional world of floral artists. With conceptual botanical sculpture, freezing multicoloured floral compositions, creating installations for brands like Hermes, working with fashion designers like Dries Van Noten, and even sending a 50-year-old bonsai and tree flower bouquets into space, he has experimented with the strength and power of flowers and plants when they face a hostile (or alien) environment like space, ice and fire. Despite critical environmental conditions, plants and flowers still burst with life, finding new expressions that even flowers or plants could never have imagined. The beauty of nature can now find new ways of communicating their organic forms through the artist’s work.
In celebration of the collaboration between Azuma Makoto and Japan House London, here is a selection of some of his works.