With sunnier weather and warmer days, the flora in Vancouver are rousing from their winter slumber. Flowers are blooming all around the city, from early rhododendrons to the famed cherry blossoms of late April. With so many varieties and colours to see in Vancouver, artists and creatives are no doubt drawing inspiration from nature’s own fleeting artwork. In what ways have artists tried to capture or appreciate the beauty of flowers?
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It has roots in the Buddhist practice of offering flowers to temple altars, but became secularized and formalized from the 15th century onward. With its long tradition and multiple schools of teachings, the practice can involve several governing principles outside of purely aesthetic or artistic considerations. One aspect is the importance of seasonality; certain flowers are most suited for certain seasons and arrangements can be made based on this seasonality or for certain festivities. The traditional Japanese home, which featured a recess room known as tokonoma, became a place for these ikebana arrangements. Not only was the arrangement of the plant material important, the selection of the container and the space the arrangement would be placed in also became significant to creating an overall balance. The art of ikebana seeks, ultimately, to bring out the innate beauty of the flower and to enhance the viewer’s appreciation of it and of nature.
Dried and Pressed Flowers
Though flowers bloom for only a short time, there are ways to preserve them. Flowers can be dried or pressed using relatively simple and accessible methods, after which they can be used in an array of artistic projects or crafts. Some methods of drying include heating using the microwave and a desiccant, heating using the oven, or by simply letting the flowers hang upside down and air dry. Pressing can be done by placing flowers between paper, such as newspaper or tissue paper, and placing that between or below weights like books. Dried flowers can be displayed in glass frames, made into bookmarks or phone cases, accessories and interior decoration items or even herbarium sheets as a collection of local plant life. Some pressed plants, like those found in natural museums, can last for hundreds of years with appropriate care!
At the intersection of science and art is the practice of botanical illustration. Found as far back as thousands of years on the walls of temples and tombs in Egypt, botanical illustrations were concerned with depicting plants with accuracy in form and colour, with an attention to detail. Early illustrations were important for medicinal purposes, helping physicians distinguish between different plants and herbs. Explorers also found value in them, allowing for records of the plant life they encountered, and culminating in collections such as the floregium, which mainly recorded flowers. Botanical illustrators often possessed a deeper understanding of plant morphology and botany beyond the basic form. Contemporary botanical illustration can utilize a variety of media and tools, draw attention to issues in conservation and biodiversity and is a way for the artist to form a disciplined observation and appreciation of the living world.
Flowers have inspired and engaged artists for thousands of years. Whether you simply enjoy taking in the sights and smells of flowers, or you’re looking to capture their myriad forms and colours, spring in Vancouver has something for everyone. Next time you’re out enjoying the sunny weather, take a moment to notice the flowers around you, and maybe you’ll find the inspiration to try one of these art practices yourself!
By Lilly Lin