The older I get the more I gravitate toward plants. It started about two years ago when I visited Joshua Tree for the first time. While hiking around the desert I began to notice the variety of plant life, and how a lot of it looked like things you would find under the ocean. The plants reminded me of seaweed, of urchins… and this was a crazy concept to me, that the desert and the ocean would have plants that could look so similar.
Encyclopedia of Nature, a new book released by Lars Müller Publishers, explores the breathtaking floral arrangements by Makoto Azuma. You could describe Azuma with the general term of a flower arranger, but that would be a serious over-simplification. Azuma takes the idea of flower arranging and turns the potentially mundane practice and completely flips it. He takes flowers and plants and creates what can only be called works of art.
Azuma’s ability to combine plants and flowers is uncanny, creating otherworldly creations that have touches of sensuality and mystery to them. His goal with arranging, a Neo-Ikebana as it’s been called, is to truly appreciate the significant role they play in our lives.
The true glory of flowers cannot be reduced to that time of life’s blossoming, when they reach their peak commercial value. Which is why my arrangements include roots and bulbs, nameless weeds, or fifty-year-old pine bonsai. Plants whither and decay. It is their essence and their drama.
These ideas are further reenforced by the brilliant photos by Shunsuke Shiinoki, who Azuma has been working with since 2002 when they opened a haute-coutre flower shop in Ginza. Because of the transient and fleeting nature of plants Shiinoki’s photos helps Azuma’s creations live on, potentially, forever. His photos are filled with an amazing amount of depth and color. The brightest of greens and reds are always enveloped in a rich blackness that sets an intense mood to each photograph.
The book itself is perfectly straightforward, that’s with some help from acclaimed designer Kenya Hara, with a foreword from Azuma, and the book itself being split into five sections: Whole, Flock, Coexistence, Hybrid, and Appearance. These sections have different styles of arrangements, such as the Hybrid section, which is about plants that have been crossbred, or artificially tampered with to improve the beauty of the flowers. Impressively the book has nearly 500 pages of the most beautiful flower and plant arrangements you’ll ever see. I don’t think you even need to be a fan of flowers to enjoy this book as the imagery is so lush and exquisite.
You can order a copy of the book on Amazon by clicking here.