Meet the artist that shot a bouquet of flowers 30,000 meters into space

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Japanese artist Makoto Azuma fuses flowers and fungi with metals and technology to create unique artworks

Azuma tells CNN Style about his ongoing quest to find new beauty in flowers and why he sent a bonsai into space

Tokyo, Japan CNN  — 

From flowers locked in ice to space-age pine trees, Japanese artist Makoto Azuma has built a career from a “new genre of art” that blends plants with artificial mediums to strikingly beautiful effect.

A florist by training, the Tokyo-based Azuma creates what he describes as “living art” – ecosystems using fish and bonsai, bicycles covered in astroturf and spectacular fungi dipped in gold, platinum and copper.

For one of his best known series, “Exobiotanica”, Azuma sent a 50-year-old Japanese white pine bonsai and an extravagant mother’s day bouquet 30,000 meters into the atmosphere and photographed his unusual satellites suspended against the edge of the earth.

“Many misunderstand me as a contemporary artist, or drawer, or sculptor, he says. “But I create living art. I am creating a totally new way of expression.”

CNN Style spoke to Azuma about the inspiration behind his work, his relationship with flowers and the technical challenges of transforming life into art.

Do you see yourself as an artist or a florist?

I think I am a florist to begin with. But I create my art work in order to find out new value and potential in flowers. So I am a florist as well as an artist. Both are important for me.

Iced Flowers installation, 2015

What was your first memory of flowers or plants when you were a child?

I grew up in the countryside, in a place called Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu (Japan’s third largest island, southwest of the main island of Honshu). My house had a large garden, surrounded by rich nature. Every morning my mother cut flowers from the garden and put arrangements at the house entrance. I was very close with nature growing up. 

When did you realize you wanted to work with natural materials to create art?

While I was running a flower shop, putting together bouquets and decoration, I thought I could find a new type of flower by applying a new expression on the flowers themselves. Besides merely making bouquets as presents or table top decoration, I thought it would be possible to capture the beauty in a photograph or video while the flower is changing its shape. It is like slicing out a moment for keeping the beauty eternal.

What is it about this medium that attracts you more than other art forms?

I believe flowers are the best art creation of nature. A human being can never make flowers. A flowers’ life is short but I scoop up the beauty of them by fixating it through various methods or letting them wither. The most attractive part of a flower is that it shows a life being withered and lost in shape, but revived again in a new shape.

What do you want to express most through flowers?

I would like to change the shape of flowers in a way no one has ever imagined before, or put the flower in an extreme environment. Sending flowers into space, or putting them in the deep sea – which I am doing now. What kind of expression do flowers show in such an environment? I embrace the quest through the experimental methods I use.

Azuma is presently experimenting with making art with flowers in the deep sea.

What are some of the main challenges of working with flowers?

it is a race against time. They say flowers age 10 years in one day. If I take three days for production, I would lose much of what I wanted to show. I must prepare fully and have a clear final vision in mind before starting the work. Flowers do not wait for humans.

It took you around six months to prepare for Exobiotanica, one of your most extreme and perhaps best-known projects. Can you tell us a bit about this work?