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The Art of Ikebana by Lin Wan Jie

On Saturday, I went down to an exhibition on ikebana which featured many artists, put up by Ikebana International at Raffle City. Wowed by the beautiful displays, I simply had to write this article.

For those not in the know, ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It has evolved over several centuries. Unlike Western flower arrangement, where layer upon layer of flowers are piled up, as few stems and leaves as possible as used in ikebana, to highlight the flower's beauty. The container also plays a great part in the arrangement - from dishes to pots, it must match and complement the arrangement perfectly.

At the exhibition, I saw arrangements of all kinds and colours, each with its own theme and beauty. Some flower arrangements were accompanied by other objects - for example, in one display, fruits and a pair of sunglasses were arranged along with the brightly-hued flowers, possibly to depict relaxation. Another piece was presented beside an overturned pot, out of which blue gauze was arranged to look like flowing water and on which a couple of wooden ducks were placed. Together with the tall, elegant vase of reeds and willows, it looked just like a river scene. Despite these exceptions, the majority of the arrangements consisted of a simple or elaborate arrangement of flowers, ranging from just the right size for a table centrepiece, to a pot on the floor and finally, a giant that spanned over 10 metres in length.

My favourite arrangements were those of simplest form - a single branch of cherry blossom or pine placed on a shallow tray filled with water, raised for extra height. The graceful curve of the branch and droop of the leaves or flowers made it beautiful in a simple, unassuming manner; the subtlety gave it an extra natural feel, making it, in my opinion, the perfect display of nature in an enclosed area of concrete and glass. There were several of these, all different yet alike in the form of their graceful curve and flow.

Other arrangements combined flowers of similar shades, to produce a themed arrangement. Another of my favourites was an arrangement that incorporated the theme of a dark jungle, composed of large leaves and fronds, with a few dark maroon orchids and even a couple of pitcher plants, inserted through the gaps of a mesh cube. I felt that the theme was very well portrayed, through all the varying hues of darkness.

Lastly, there were the arrangements comprising flowers of all colours and hues. What made them beautiful was the combination of the different shapes and sizes - flowing, spiky, bunched, individual centerpieces. I especially liked a composition of reeds, flowers and leaves placed in a shallow blue plate which was filled with water, giving the impression of the still surface of a pond. The reeds were drooped to a side, giving the arrangement dimension and creating a most exquisite effect.

As you can guess, it took me a long time to walk through the whole exhibition, as I stopped by almost every display to admire the arrangements. Each has its own point of beauty and individual theme, and I could stare at each one for hours, simply appreciating the placement and angle of every individual leaf and flower. This exhibition has introduced the world of ikebana to me, a world which I had not even known about before. If an ikebana exhibition ever happens to be in town again, I strongly encourage you to visit it, and like me, be wowed by the joy and wonder a simple arrangement of flora can instill within you. It is the essence of nature in a bottle, or vase, or jar, or on a plate…