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Azuma Makoto – Botanic Beauties

Jan 20, 2018

A special guest of TLmag, Azuma Makoto, designed our cover of this AW issue as well as the one of TLmag 16 in 2013. His botanic art works and installations deliver an extraordinary picture of our relationship to nature.

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Text by Lise Coirier
Photography by Shiinoki Shunsuke

His botanic art and design installations reveal the beauty of our planet and change the way we perceive the natural world. By introducing some artificial materials into his elegant and sophisticated works, Azuma Makoto questions the relationship between the organic and the technologic. With his partner and photographer Shinokii and his team based in Tokyo, he works with flowers and plants to create sublime, picturesque images. His works invite us to travel into time and space, through the seasons and rhythms as if we have suddenly stepped into of a science-fiction movie.

TLmag: Do you discuss your botanic art installations and experimentations together with your photographer Shinokii?

Azuma Makoto: Yes, we do. But for the most part, I suggest the idea and then I make it happen with my team.

TLmag: Is photography the major record left behind for your botanical works and installations or are you also trying to create objects that can last throughout time? I am thinking specifically about the bonsai installations in SHIKI x Landscapes.

A.M.: The pieces I make are mostly made of organic materials which constantly change form. Most them eventually wilt. This ephemeral aspect is the one of most important and exciting points of my work, but it is also very important to capture the flowers and their beauty before they are forever lost. There are many brilliant photographers in this world, but I think no one compares to my partner Shiinoki when it comes to working with flowers.

TLmag: Were the “Iced Flowers” created only for the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten’s fashion show or is there another meaning behind the work?

A.M.: I created “Shiki 2”—which is an iced bonsai block—in 2007. At that time, I just used bonsai, not flowers, but I had wanted to use flowers for a long time. In 2015, I did the “Iced Flowers” installation in Saitama, a city near Tokyo, as my own solo exhibition lasting just a few days. Dries Van Noten saw the pictures of that unique moment and asked me to create something similar for his fashion show in Paris.

TLmag: What is your relationship to fashion designers and the creative scene in general?

A.M.: Flowers are an eternal motif in the world of fashion as they embody the concepts of beauty, strength, vitality and the ephemeral. Fashion is a direct reflection of the times we live in. We see it in current trends, but what I find interesting is how flowers unfailingly continue to be a part of the creative world. I think this is because flowers touch all of us in a way that defies the conventions of era, country, language and religion. They are universally and instinctively seen as beautiful.

TLmag: How would you define your contemporary Asian aesthetics? Are they simply embodied into your strong connection to nature? 

A.M.: I don’t know much about Asian aesthetics; however, I think flowers, plants and gardens sound more spiritual for Japanese people than Westerners. For example, we have a type of tree called the goshinboku which is worshiped as a god. Japanese people admire nature—this is part of their culture. In Europe, people’s relationship with nature seems to be to friendship and they bring it into their lives in a more casual way. In Japan, there is a bit more distance when admiring nature. I pay homage to nature by deliberately cutting off the plant’s ties with the earth and incorporating artificial materials, thus creating a friction between nature and man.



Azuma Makoto, Exobiotanica
Azuma Makoto, Shikil x Landscape
Azuma Makoto, Shikil x Landscape
Azuma Makoto, Burning Flowers
Azuma Makoto, Burning Flowers
Azuma Makoto, Iced Flowers
Azuma Makoto, Iced Flowers that were set up after Tokyo on the catwalk of the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten

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