Feature Article


Display Styles

Discuss this article >>

Text byMorten Albek (C)
Photos: Morten Albek and Higuchi Takeshi

In light of the recent completion of our first annual display contest, we are pleased to present a trio of articles by Morten Albek on display. In this one, Morten gives us the basics for placing Shohin on a stand made for multiple bonsai.

Morten Albek is an important presence in the bonsai community, his accomplishments in the art of bonsai are rivaled by very few others, his energy and willingness to share his knowledge truly makes him a leader in the art. AoB is proud to feature a gallery of some of his work "The Accent Plants of Morten Albek", "The Shohin Bonsai of Morten Albek", and an on-line interview with this artist that can be read here. Morten's personal web site at Shohin-europe.com is one of the most referenced siites on the web.

There are three basic forms of bonsai display styles regarding to the Japanese traditions. They are named shin, gyo and so.

These examples take their start point in the cases where a scroll is used. There are plenty of examples of displays where a scroll is not used, but the basic styles are easier to explain by the use of a scroll.

In the case of Shohin-Bonsai displays, it is important to note that the overall point is to express beauty and the time of year (summer, autumn, winter or spring). Also the environment can be expressed through choice of pots i.e.

SHIN

Shin is a very formal style, and in this case the scroll always is settled precisely in the centre of a Tokonoma.

SHIN

Shohin-Bonsai, Juniperus Shimpaku, in a formal set-up, (shin).
Display by Daizo Iwasaki, Japan.
Photo: Morten Albek

GYO

Gyo is less formal, and allows the scroll to be placed slightly off centre. This influences at the bonsai style and accents chosen, which also is accepted to be more or less informal in their style. Often this style is used by westerners. Probably it is often due to lack of knowledge regarding the Japanese style and the way to read a display, and partly it may lie in our culture and natural free way of thinking art.

GYO

Here the scroll is placed slightly off centre, and together with the figurine the less formal style (gyo) is expressed.
Shohin-Bonsai at the Gafuten 30 in Japan. Winter display.
Photo: Higuchi Takeshi

SO

So is the free style, which lets the artist play around more freely with the elements. So allows the scroll to be placed much more off centre, and the usage of more artistic pots i.e. are also in the slipstream of the free form.

SO

More than 400 year old White Pine displayed by Saburo Kato, Japan.
Photo: Morten Albek

(shin) and the less formal (gyo)

In this example, a mix between the formal (shin) and the less formal (gyo) style is used.
The scroll is placed in the centre, but there is added a modern pot to the image, that makes this set-up more informal in style.
Tokonoma, summer display at the home of Daizo Iwasaki, Japan.
Photo: Morten Albek

Furthermore, just to make it all more complex, the different forms of display can be toned and mixed. And the interpretation of the chosen style can differ from the artists. The point to take is that one has to be open minded to the expressions of the whole composition. A scroll is not a given thing in a display, but it can add mood and underline the time of year in the display. The main focus is the feeling of the display.

The final expression and interpretation is related far more to feelings of the display than following rules. The untold and understated elements are the key to feel the display.

Summer display by Hiroshi Takeyama.

Summer display by Hiroshi Takeyama.
Display without scroll is also a common practise.
Especially when the mood and time of year easily is suggested by the bonsai and the accent.
Photo: Morten Albek

Discuss this article >>
Profile: Morten Albek