How Grandma’s Ikebana introduced me to art appreciation

Ikebana was the first art I appreciated. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. That’s the standard definition, the subtleties are more complicated.

Growing up, trips to the National Gallery of the Victoria (only one location at the time) involved viewing paintings of the Heidelberg School, my younger brother whining all the way through and a good look at the stain glass ceiling. For those of you not familiar the Heidelberg school involved painters in the bush painting men with beards doing manly things. The most famous picture of that school would be “Shearing the rams” by Tom Roberts.

My paternal grandma is Glenys Beissel and she is a Master of the Sogetsu school. An arrangement of the Sogetsu school doesn’t have to have flowers. Ikebana is practised in the home and exhibited. It is still considered in Japan to be an art to make a woman a more appealing wife. But many of the high-ranking masters are male. Sound familiar?

Three pomegranates and three branches in a white vase

Glenys’s arrangements at home are more traditional. The above picture is an arrangement at home from the last twelve months. The pomegranates take the place of flowers because they are seasonal. Seasonality is one of the principles of ikebana.

Free standing arrangement, Upright metal with bars, bark woven through, big springs and two plastic circles

I consider the above exhibition piece to be typical of Glenys’s style.

Glenys’s exhibited work was definitely modern. As I grew up I watched her planning exhibits at home, I went in with her when she was installing work, I went to some of her exhibits.

paper spiral

I saw Glenys working on the paper spirals for this one. I never saw it in situ.

It didn’t occur to me that I was watching her make art. It was just part of her identity. Something that was part of her as Glenys’s. Her health is forcing her to slow down. She no longer exhibits. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take more photos when she was exhibiting.

Blue plastic strip arranged on log

This is one of two photos I did take. Thank you, grandma, for letting me publish your photos.

Glenys’s is my inspiration for using found objects. My cousin who is currently an art student says the same thing. Glenys’s arrangements find meaning in form and line and that parallels the type of abstract art I like and create as an adult.


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