Forces of Nature

In an identifiable departure from the traditions of botanical art, four artists are bringing a new and dynamic lease of life to this form. Stepping away from older presentations of botany, their three-dimensional representations celebrate the plant world in a refreshing and tangible way.

Azuma Makoto
Tokyo, Japan

Exercising his former rock-star talents by channelling this energy into a completely contrasting discipline, Azuma Makoto has taken to stardom on another stage. Putting his work out into an equally cutthroat industry, it was recently applauded at a Dries Van Noten fashion show where 30 two-and-a-half-metre-tall ice blocks filled with flowers lined the catwalk and melted in time to the show. Just one of his many collaborations with high-end fashion brands, Azuma has rocketed the traditional bouquet into another dimension.

Identifying as a floral artist, he points to the synergy between music and flowers as each hold their own frequency. His latest work, ‘Botanical Sculpture: Damned Ikebana’, is an equally fantastical display that invites the viewer to challenge their floral assembling blueprint. Inspired by ikebana, the Japanese tradition of flower arranging, Azuma has created dystopian fibre sculptures that are simultaneously menacing, alluring and wishfully edible. Ideas that could easily manifest in a Lewis Carol novel, Azuma will continue to contest the way we see, place and play with flowers.

The Volume 2 sculpture


Azuma Makoto in his light- and temperature-controlled Tokyo floral laboratory


Nick Bladen
Cape Town, South Africa

‘The second I assembled my first plant sculpture, I knew that this was a way of recording our plant diversity,’ says Nic. Having never consciously studied botany or any form of botanical art, Nic Bladen’s work is a very literal representation of the form. Attributing his knowledge to his green-fingered parents, he fondly recalls them spouting the Latin names of plants on outings as a child. With a new fascination for Cape Orchids and a tendency to embody the Proteaceae plant family in his work, Nic stresses his interest is in an overall landscape and not one singular plant.

‘I like to focus on depicting a region according to the plants occurring there and the hardship of a given piece of land through sculpture.’ Using bronze to cast his hand-picked plants, his anatomical sculptures offer a scientific component to what he sees as a necessity for posterity. ‘I envisioned them belonging in a botanical museum collection. This way of capturing the shapes of plants is a manifestation of the richness, and of the loss, of our botanical heritage,’ he says.

Nic Bladen in his studio in Simon’s Town, Cape Town


Cotyledon orbiculata


Leucospermum cordifolium X linear


Works in progress


Ignacio Canales Aracil
Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Aracil’s work is majestic. His biomorphic sculptures are celestial-like beings, woven together with hand-picked flowers, gently laid around a mould and sprayed with adhesive. Be it an elliptical arrangement suspended from a high ceiling or dome-shaped sculpture that could be mistaken for a terrarium glass bell, they simultaneously harness the fragility and strength of nature. Delicate enough to be encased in glass themselves, Ignacio argues it’s the process that he finds most alluring.

‘The way they have been made, which takes a lot of time and fiscal effort, and the serenity of the result, is what seduces me the most,’ he says.

Ignacio Canales Aracil uses dried flowers to create his biomorphic sculptures



Zemer Peled
Long Beach, California, USA

Inspired by Japanese Igezara wares, Zemer Peled’s love of flowers is manifested in her fluid clay montages. A process which she finds therapeutic, her undulating clay sculptures are imposing and calculating. ‘The material challenges the viewer to look more closely at my work, to figure out how it is made and what it is made from,’ she notes. With Joshua Tree National Park on her doorstep, her porcelain, prickly succulents embody her practice. ‘It looks so soft and furry but is sharp and dangerous; it is everything I try to convey in my sculptures.’

Israeli-born Zemer Peled’s textural works are made up of thousands of ceramic shards


Photography Azuma Makoto photographs: Shunsuke Shiinoki; Nic Bladen photographs: Micky Hoyle; supplied Production Martin Jacobs