Tokyo – Born in 1976, Makoto Azuma opened his first flower shop, Jardin des Fleurs, in 2002. Bouquets can be ordered on-demand, but not a single flower is on display in the store. Inventing the genre of the ‘botanical sculpture,’ Azuma arranges plants and flowers in an expressive way, so as to show the energy of living plants.
Besides making floral arrangement for clients, the artist runs his experimental botanical lab Azuma Makoto Kaju Kenkyusho (AMKK), where he explores the potential of plants that are being disposed of. Azuma works closely with photographer Shunsuke Shiinoki, who documents his work.
In an interview extracted from our book Where They Create: Japan [on sale here], Azuma discusses the initial reaction to his shop location, the spiritual side of his line of work and how flowers are like wine.
What attracts you to flowers as a medium to work with?
MAKOTO AZUMA: To me, flowers are energy. Plants are living things, they are never static. They are ever-changing. Once a plant is cut from its root, it no longer grows but only deteriorates. I am honoured to be given that precious moment from the start of the deterioration of the plant, to give its life a final expression.
Looking at some of the photographs of your works, I sense a baroqueness of light and shadow.
You are right. For the past few years I intentionally had photos taken that emphasise the vividness of a flower against the darkness. I used what I call Rembrandt light for the shoots, as I wanted to express the transient life of the plant by contrasting it with the darkness of death, that inevitably is imminent in short time. Every day I touch and look at plants. I can’t deny their impermanence and I want to treasure their life by highlighting it.
What is your typical day like?
I usually walk to my flower shop and atelier from my house, which takes me about 40 minutes. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday my day starts very early at 4:00 in the morning, as I go to the flower market to select flowers for the day.
At around 8:00 I return to the atelier with flowers and I immediately start cutting the edges of the stalk with scissors as I put them in water. This is so they can absorb water faster and better. This process is very important to extend their life, and I sharpen the scissors every day.
We return from the market with a filled four-ton truck, so you can imagine how many plants we are taking with us. It is really important that we respect those precious lives, and cutting them is actually a very serene moment.