By Victoria Solan
Spring is notoriously elusive in Ottawa. The days lengthen, the street sweeping trucks pass the house, and still the flowers remain underground, frustrating those of us who are waiting for a colorful, fragrant reason to celebrate the change of season.
Luckily, the Canadian Museum of Nature is currently hosting Ikebana: Creating Art with Nature, a wonderful display of floral creativity by Ottawa members of Ikebana International. The exhibition, which runs until Sunday, offers all of us chance to embrace the sights and smells of spring a little bit ahead of Mother Nature’s plan for our region.
Unlike most Western flower-arranging traditions, the practice of Ikebana (literally “keeping flowers alive”) emphasizes the importance of creating space around each bloom. The arrangements, which may incorporate both natural and man-made materials, are deliberately spare, heightening the viewer’s appreciation for each carefully-chosen element of the composition.
The practice of Ikebana (literally “keeping flowers alive”) emphasizes the importance of creating space around each bloom.
Creating Art with Nature includes both traditional Ohara style and more contemporary Sogetsu displays. George Rigby, one of the contributors to the exhibition, explains that while both arrangement styles draw on Zen Buddhist concepts of awakening the senses, Sogetsu practice allows more diversity in the use of materials. Rigby’s own entry is a surprising blend of flowers and small white picture frames, a nice deconstruction of western still life painting. Micheline Beach, who also works in the Sogetsu tradition, has glued together roses, cork screw hazel, and baby’s breath with what appears to be a plinth of IKEA’s LACK side tables. The result is an elegant and amusing interweaving of flowers and disposable furniture.
The Ikebana arrangements, more than 30 in all, celebrate nature’s capacity to surprise and delight us. Bright pink pincushion-shaped protea pop against the gray walls of the museum, giant purple allium seem larger than life and each carefully-arranged installation testifies to nature’s stunning capacities for pattern and decoration.
“Anywhere, anytime, anything” is the motto of Sogetsu design technique, Rigby explains, and the motto could equally be applied to an Ottawa spring. We have to appreciate nature as it is given to us, and sometimes that means focusing in on the beauty of small things. Don’t miss your chance to see spring blossom indoors: exhibition workshops are already sold-out, but the gallery display is up for all to enjoy.