If you have delved into my essential reading list, you will already know that I find the work of floral artist Azuma Makoto breathtaking, to the point of being moved to tears by it. In a world where one frequently feels one has seen it all before, his work is a revelation, encouraging us to look at plants and flowers in a completely different way. He has encased lavish bouquets in giant blocks of ice, pickled them in glass bottles, sent flowers to the bottom of the ocean and even launched a bonsai tree into space, each time producing visually stunning, thought-provoking results. Makoto demonstrates a level of imagination and creativity that’s rarely seen in any field of art or design, and I can’t help being dazzled by the way he presents flowers as objects of desire.
I stumbled upon Makoto’s original Encyclopaedia of Flowers in an Amsterdam bookshop five years ago and, despite the hefty price tag – perhaps 50 Euros back then – I had to have it. I had not realised until last week that volumes II and III had been published in the intervening years. The copy in my library is now worth at least £344, and as much as £980 given its mint condition. I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would become an investment piece when I purchased it, although I have always handled the book with the greatest respect. Volume II would now set me back £79, and Volume III a modest £38. If I am a good boy this month, I might invest further.
On March the 8th 2018 a new book, also a collaboration between Makoto and botanical photographer Shunsuke Shiinoki, is published by Thames and Hudson. ‘Flora Magnifica, The Art of Flowers in Four Seasons‘ promises ‘dense, luxuriant images, rich in colour and texture, in which nature and artifice are skilfully mingled‘. My copy is on preorder. I recommend you do the same.
Having associated Makoto with photography for so long, I was surprised and delighted to stumble upon his first foray into animation. If you are feeling in the slightest bit down about the state of life and the universe, I promise you will feel uplifted by the simple beauty of this three and a half-minute video. Entitled ‘The Story of Flowers‘ it seeks to explain the life-cycle of flowers and their place in nature. After failing to find a good book or film to help him explain the concept to his daughter, Makoto enlisted UK Artist Katie Scott and animator James Paulley to illustrate the narrative arc of a plant: rooting, sprouting, blooming, pollination by birds and insects, surviving rain and storms, rebirth, and finally decay. The result is a little moment of pure joy.