Taking the center stage of PAÑPURI Signature Store Ginza Six’s opening is a breathtaking floral installation called “Flowers in Oil” created by renowned Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.
Azuma has pursued artistic activities to elevate the value of flowers and plants by finding their distinctive characteristics while adding his unique artistry and showcasing them in artworks which he calls as “botanical sculptures”. Get to know Azuma Makoto as he talks about his calling as a floral artist while sharing insights on his collaboration with PAÑPURI.
PAÑPURI (P): How did the inspiration for “Flowers in Oil” come about?
Azuma Makoto (AM): Our collaboration with PAÑPURI is a concurrence of Japanese and Thai culture. With both countries being naturally rich in fauna and flora, we wanted to open the PAÑPURI Signature Store Ginza Six with a unique approach on flowers, botanicals and nature, using a unique base that PAÑPURI is already known for—its oils. We have done installation with flowers using ice and acrylic materials, but this one with PAÑPURI is special. “Flowers in Oil” celebrates the artful mix of the flowers’ natural essences and the potent preserving powers of sunflower oil.
P: Why did you collaborate with PAÑPURI?
AM: Even before the start of the collaboration, we have been using their diffusers in our office! So, we were really interested in having the opportunity to work with them. What was going to be unique about the collaboration is our brands’ belief in nature—to capture nature in its rawest form and translate it into a ritual, an art, a statement.
P: Can you tell us about your background in the floristry world?
AM: I discovered my love of flowers after moving to Tokyo to pursue rock music and instead landed a job as a traded in a flower market.
P: How did you become a floral artist?
AM: At my job at the market, I was surprised at how many flowers there were in the world and how much people thought of them as a necessity. The various expressions shown by the flowers fascinated me as they spun through the cycle of blooming and withering away. Taking the art of flowers to another level, I opened an haute-couture flower shop, “JARDINS des FLEURS” in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo and explored the expressive potentials of flowers and plants, where the “botanical sculptures” were born.
"What was going to be unique about the collaboration is our brands’ belief in nature—to capture nature in its rawest form and translate it into a ritual, an art, a statement."
P: Where do you get inspirations for your designs/ art?
AM: Technology gives me options and ideas, but inspiration comes from the plants. Japanese people believe gods exist everywhere in nature, so we approach it with awe and reverence. Without that respect, the process of changing natural life into artworks with my own hands does not happen.
P: What is the process when you create a new project?
AM: First, I start with a plant as my base. Rather than searching around for something to express, I first think about how grateful I am to have found myself in this moment with this plant, consider it quietly for some time, and listen carefully to its voice. Then, I think about what kind of expression the plant is offering and how I might best show it – this is the start of my work. There are some times that I have an image in my head that I sketch out onto a concept sheet or a blackboard, but for the most part I create my work primarily from getting inspiration directly from the plants themselves.
P: What are the challenges of working with flowers and plants?
AM: It is a race against time. The life of a flower is exceedingly brief, even transitory and ephemeral. It is said that flowers age 10 years in a day. If I take three days for production, I would lose much of what I wanted to show. I must prepare fully and have a clear final vision in mind before starting the work. Flowers do not wait for humans.
P: Can you tell us about some of your notable art installations and floral commissions?
AM: One of my most notable projects was in 2014 dubbed as “Exobiotanica”. This is when I partnered with an aerospace company to send a 50-year old bonsai tree and a bouquet of 30 different forms of life 30,000m high into the space on a specialized vessel. Super-high resolution cameras equipped on the vessels captured an image every second, creating 12,000 art pieces of the flight.
P: Do you have a favorite flower/ plant?
AM: All plants have their own special charm, so there is no selecting just one. When creating a work, I use plants that have a sense of vitality and life around them regardless of the particular type. I use plants that seem like they are just on the brink of bursting, overflowing with the sense of tension of being just one second away from exploding.