The phrase wabi sabi is central to traditional Japanese aesthetic, manifesting in calligraphy, painting, poetry, pottery, architecture and above all, flower arrangement. The aesthetic is based on three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Far from decrying these realities, wabi sabi celebrates the beauty of it, finding beauty for example in the weathering of wood, the rust patina on an iron kettle, the wear of a tea bowl after years of use, and the austere simplicity of artfully arranged flowers in a practice known as Ikebana.
Toshiro Kawase is an Ikebana master whose works faithfully capture the wabi sabi spirit of functional simplicity. Born in Kyoto in 1948, Kawase earned a degree from Nihon University College of Art. After graduating, he went to Paris to work in theatre and film, which no doubt informed his perspective and poetic style. He returned to Japan in 1974 as to practice as an Ikebana artist. His works have received much acclaim, both in Japan and overseas.
The following are examples of Kawase’s Ikebana arrangements. The austere simplicity of his floral arrangements may appear to be easy to create, but they belie years of study and concentrated practice.