The Flower that symbolises Japanese spirituality

Our book Flower brings together an unimaginably varied bouquet of fine art blooms, including Rinko Kawauchi's powerful image
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Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the eyes, the ears, 2005. C-print, 29.8 × 25.4 / 12 × 10 in. Courtesy Rinko Kawauch
Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the eyes, the ears, 2005. C-print, 29.8 × 25.4 / 12 × 10 in. Courtesy Rinko Kawauch

The petals of spring and summer might have faded, but in our new book, Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom, they’re just bursting into life. This beautifully conceived new title brings together some of the most important, impressive and absolutely beautiful floral images ever committed to canvas, film, sculpture or screen. These vary from classic works by such artists as William Blake, Henri Fantin-Latour, through to contemporary masterpieces by Robert Mapplethorpe and Jonas Wood.

In each case, our new book not only reproduces the work in exquisite detail, but also offers engaging textual insights. Take this photograph, by the acclaimed Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, who, in training her lens on a flowering weed in a concrete crack, reveals something deeper and more intrinsic about Japan’s botanical make-up and its spirituality.

“Kawauchi heightens the plant’s elegance by isolating its linear form against the uniform blue of the painted concrete,” explains the text in Flower. “The single white flower, together with the yellow centres that have lost their petals and the sprawling green leaves, offset the otherwise monochromatic image, creating a point of interest while retaining the balance and simplicity that make the photograph so appealing.

"Central to Kawauchi’s approach is the ethos of Japan’s traditional religion, Shinto – in which every living thing has a spirit – a quality that is reflected in poetic images where mundane subjects are imbued with a dreamlike quality. Here, the flower’s determination to reach the light is emblematic of the kind of resilience of which plants are capable: the herbaceous flowering blackjack weed (Bidens pilosa) has made its home in the unlikely place of a concrete crevice.

"Native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central America and parts of South America, the flower was introduced into Japan during the Edo period (1600–1867). The species possesses an effective means of seed dispersal by humans, animals, wind and water, causing it to be spread widely and aggressively invade crops such as sugarcane. Despite its pernicious nature, the plant has been used in cultures worldwide for its anti-inflammatory medicinal properties to treat an extensive range of ailments.”

The real healing power of Kawauchi’s image, however, lies in the photograph's uprising spiritual quality. To see more images like this and to read more about Kawauchi and many others, order a copy of Flower here. If you loved, Animal, Plant, Anatomy, Universe and Map - you'll love Flower just as much!


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All you need to know about Flower


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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