Diane Borsato and Ikebana Intrigue


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Practicing the kakei (a beginner’s rules and specific angles for basic upright arrangements) in the Burrard Marina Field House. Image, courtesy the artist.

With a practice rooted in performative interventions, our newest Burrard Marina Field House artist-in-residence Diane Borsato explores the effects of minimal gestures on larger social structures. Her work—which in the past has dipped into the varying fields of mycology, astronomy and beekeeping—surprises with an immediately established intimacy. A feat for her projects which typically take years to develop and execute.

She is currently focused on Ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement, for an upcoming exhibition at the CAG in 2017. Diane has long held a fascination for Japanese aesthetics, and her interest in the ephemerality of flowers has early beginnings in her university job as a florist. As part of her research in Vancouver, Diane has been visiting with local practitioners and organizations, including the Vancouver Ikebana Association (VIA).

Hollis Ho, a teacher in the Sogetsu school of Ikebana, introduced Diane to some of her students and gave a preview of their work for an upcoming exhibition at the Nitobe Memorial Garden. The special two-day show will be the Sogetsu school’s first large-scale outdoor exhibition in Vancouver, and opens this Friday (July 29).

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Arrangements by students of Sogetsu teacher Hollis Ho, preparing for an installation at the Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC. Courtesy the artist.

Diane also met with Kuniko Yamamoto, president of the VIA, and Judie Glick, a former head of the association. The VIA will participate in the 40th Annual Powell Street Festival this weekend with a display and twice-daily demonstration at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

Her next meeting was at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre. She toured the centre’s garden with director-curator Sherri Kajiwara and Nick Sueyoshi, of the Vancouver Japanese Gardeners Association. Diane had a chance to become familiar with plants native to the Northwest Coast, as well as some Japanese transplants. The climate this year has been particularly encouraging to a loquat tree (biwa), which produced fruit for the first time since it was planted—perhaps an auspicious sign for Diane’s work to come.

diagrams kakei

Practicing the kakei (a beginner’s rules and specific angles for basic upright arrangements) in the Burrard Marina Field House. Courtesy of the artist.

Continuing her research, Diane visited the Nitobe Memorial Garden with Naomi Sawada, a fellow student of Ikebana and manager of public programs and promotion for the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. A stroll through the quiet garden on a hot summer’s day was perfect for a conversation about the development of Diane’s project. Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), for whom the garden was named, was a vital figure in bridging the culture of North America and Japan.


Diane Borsato with Naomi Sawada in the Nitobe Memorial Garden.


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