It is currently Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:14 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 118 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 8  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:19 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:04 pm
Posts: 244
Location: South San Francisco, CA
Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines. They are found in the work of literati artists beginning in China many centuries ago. This is where anyone interested in this style should begin their study. Forget the bonsai books.

One of my favorite books, many years out of print is:
JAPANESE PAINTING IN THE LITERATI STYLE by Yoshiho Yonezawa and Chu Yoshizawa.
This book is still available online from some used book sellers. Highly recommended.

The attached image is from this book and is found on page 124, and is by Wang Fu, 15th century Chinese artist. This was the inspiration for my "controversial" literati pine.


Attachments:
bunjin_fav-pine.jpg
bunjin_fav-pine.jpg [ 79.2 KiB | Viewed 2477 times ]
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:13 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Mike Page wrote:
Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines.


I'd be greatly interested in seeing your thoughts on what these guidelines are.

I have done quite a bit of research on the Literati or Bunjin style, the results of which are published here at AoB ( http://artofbonsai.org/feature_articles/literati.php ), amongst other places. While I could easily describe most styles to you, using set and time honored guidelines, the same can not be said about Literati. John Naka mirrors most thoughts on this style, that the Literati style is a dream, a vision, more than reality, one can not simply nail the style down.

Lack of Nebari, direction of movement, trunk movement, foliage placement, scarcity of foliage, direction of growth, texture, shape, form, none of these things and yet all of these things can be attributed to the Literati style at one time, but not another.


Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:56 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
The simple fact that we can usually tell a literati bonsai from a bonsai that is not, leads me to believe that we base our decision of on a group of criteria applicable to literati. If there was no such criteria, then we could not tell them apart from other trees, and there would be no such group as literati.

Obviously, not every criteria apply to every literati, but some criteria always does. If you put 10 literati trees next to each other, I am sure that you can find common criteria between them, that sets them apart from other type of bonsai.

The proof that literati can be defined with a set of criteria is the following:

1) Some trees can clearly be classified as literati, with a simple yes or no.

2) As soon as you start departing from these criteria, the classification becomes increasingly difficult - these are the trees that cross over between the so-called styles.

3)The last group contains trees that can clearly be defined as not literati.

Based on the above logic, there must be a set of criteria applicable to literati. It is simple mathematics, using a set of logical patterns and comparing them to each other.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 10:14 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:21 pm
Posts: 86
Location: New England, USA
Attila Soos wrote:
If there was no such criteria, then we could not tell them apart from other trees, and there would be no such group as literati.


Attila,
Of course there are qualifying criteria that apply to literati, as there are for all creative endeavors, but that does not necessarily make them classical. There are qualifying criteria in music, eg: for hip-hop, jazz, country and western - but they are not classical music. There are qualifying criteria in architecture, eg: Dutch colonial, beaux arts, paladian - none of which is classical architecture. And in literature you have the thriller, romance, tragedy and so on, but none is classical literature.

In bonsai qualifying categories exist for root over rock, windswept, driftwood and several other styles (old and new) none of which is classical.

However, it is possible to have classic examples of any or all of the above.

Semantics is what happens to bonsai freaks when the growing season ends.
.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:34 am 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Colin Lewis wrote:
Semantics is what happens to bonsai freaks when the growing season ends.


How true. Perhaps to better sharpen our understanding for the next growing season?

Attila Soos wrote:
The simple fact that we can usually tell a literati bonsai from a bonsai that is not, leads me to believe that we base our decision of on a group of criteria applicable to literati. If there was no such criteria, then we could not tell them apart from other trees, and there would be no such group as literati.

And yet, none have been able to list such a criteria.

Literati can be informal upright in nature, cascade, windswept, slanting, even twin trunk. Yet, it is more, perhaps less than any.

Attila Soos wrote:
Obviously, not every criteria apply to every literati, but some criteria always does. If you put 10 literati trees next to each other, I am sure that you can find common criteria between them, that sets them apart from other type of bonsai.

True, but also as true is the fact that you would be able to find common criteria with other styles as well.

But we digress from the point Colin is making, a valid, logical separation of the term used here "classical" and the term "classic"


Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:33 am 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Colin Lewis wrote:
Of course there are qualifying criteria that apply to literati, as there are for all creative endeavors, but that does not necessarily make them classical. There are qualifying criteria in music, eg: for hip-hop, jazz, country and western - but they are not classical music. There are qualifying criteria in architecture, eg: Dutch colonial, beaux arts, paladian - none of which is classical architecture. And in literature you have the thriller, romance, tragedy and so on, but none is classical literature.

In bonsai qualifying categories exist for root over rock, windswept, driftwood and several other styles (old and new) none of which is classical.

However, it is possible to have classic examples of any or all of the above.

Semantics is what happens to bonsai freaks when the growing season ends.


Thank you Colin for further clarifying your thoughts on this.
For a minute I was worried that we will come to the conclusion here that literati bonsai cannot even be defined. Which would have been a pity, since we all know what the literaty style is about.

So, semantics aside (which is not a bad tool to detect weakness in somone's logic) there is only one question that still remains in my mind: you say that literati should not be considered classical, just like hip-hop or jazz is not - by the way, tragedy is part of classical literature, see the works of Euripides, Sophocles, etc.

Since the Literati form exist from the dawn of bonsai - i.e. it is as time-honored as bonsai can get - what is the offence for which it is excluded from the respected group of so-called classicals? Since most of us agree that there are principles, or qualifying criteria applicable to it, it is not as "free form" as one pleases. It has its constraints, although not always obvious in the minds of many.

I wish there was a known, or published body of work from a recognized authority on classical bonsai, where we could at least get an indication as to the place of literati bonsai in the context of what is considered classical. Otherwise, I suspect that the issue remains a hotly contested one, with no definitive answer.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:30 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 12:42 pm
Posts: 35
Location: Lancashire, England
Colin Lewis wrote:
Attila,
Of course there are qualifying criteria that apply to literati, as there are for all creative endeavors, but that does not necessarily make them classical.
.


I don't think Attila is addressing the 'classical' issue at all, nor trying to.

He is however attempting a systematic approach to talking about categories and I can only applaud this.

My beef with the use of 'classical' to label a style or type is the semantic claim (if you will allow) that it is the best rank, a peak of excellence in the art. This is not explicitly stated by people using it but is part of the definition of 'classical' when used to discuss the arts.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/classical

R.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:32 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:04 pm
Posts: 244
Location: South San Francisco, CA
Images, not words are best suited to define literati style. Study with your eyes the work of the Chinese literati painters and the Japanese artists of the Nanga period. I'm not an accomplished wordsmith as are so many on this forum. I have to rely on images to make a point, and these images are in the books, and will define classical literati if you look for it.

Some words below. I made a handout for my club members when we did a bunjin demo recently.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

LITERATI STYLE by Professor Amy Liang
From her book, THE LIVING ART OF BONSAI

"This style was the favorite of the literati in ancient China.Trees in this style grow in valleys between precipices or beside mountain streams. The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace.The literati is the easiest style to create, but is at the same time, difficult to accomplish well. The artist must possess three qualities to make the choices necessary to create a successful literati style: keen aesthetic judgment, accumulated wisdom and superb techniques. Favorable tree species are of the pine and juniper families, maple and Japanese flowering apricot (plum), Fukien Tea, and Oldham elaeagnus. Shallow round and irregular pots of austere color should be chosen for this style to display a peaceful and relaxed"
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thoughts on Bunjin Bonsai by Mike Page
A bunjin bonsai should embody the elegance of simplicity, and the simplicity of true grace. Is this attainable? Are we mortals capable? Should we even try? I believe that we should. Will we succeed? We may not know.

I truly believe that bunjin reflects the artistic philosophy of "less is more" to a degree far greater than any other style of bonsai. However, the distillation of the philosophy to a work of bonsai art may be a difficult path to travel.

As we travel this path to bonsai nirvana, the destination may be just around the next turn. Or, maybe its over the top of the next hill. But there is always another turn in the road and one more hill to climb in the unending journey.
The journey is the lesson. The lesson is the destination.
--------------------------------------------------------------------

As I said at the beginning, if you want to gain a feeling for "classical literati", you must go to the images. Words will not take you to the desired destination.

Mike

.


Last edited by Mike Page on Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:24 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Thanks Mike, I particularly like Amy Liang's down to earth, but very fitting description.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 1:03 am 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Mike,

Certainly you must agree that Amy's and your own words above failed to give us the guidelines you mentioned, "Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines."

I disagree with Amy's statement that "...the literati is the easiest style to create..." Any style is easy to create, but we are not talking about just creation, but successful creation and in that aspect, a successful Literati is the hardest to create.

Her description of the Literati style resembles attempts by many others to nail the style down, yet this style defies such attempts. Her attempt focuses on generalities only. Literati bonsai has a way of making any such attempt to define it like trying to nail jello to a wall. For example, she states, "The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace." However, the Literati bonsai below ignores her.....

Attachment:
steve_tolley_pentaphyla_370.jpg
steve_tolley_pentaphyla_370.jpg [ 157.75 KiB | Viewed 3739 times ]

Pinus pentaphyla by Steve Tolley


Colin,

It took me awhile to think on your words, classical vs classic, and I find myself wanting to agree that Mike's bonsai is indeed a classic example as opposed to a classical example.

While it may seem trivial at first, the difference is immense.

Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:48 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:21 pm
Posts: 86
Location: New England, USA
Will,
Of course now you have opened up the question of whether or not Steve Tolley's tree is indeed a literati....

Richard,
Believe not all you read on Wikipedia. I have seen several incorrect entries, and actually changed one myself (Akadama was defied as a high-fired clay). To use the tern 'classical; to mean a fine example of high quality is incorrect.

Mike, You are absolutely right. This is one of those things that you have to see to understand. Literati is defined as much by the 'feel' and the spirit of the tree as by anything else - whicj is why I contend it isn't a classical style.

One more point before I leap on a plane and disappear for a few days: I wonder if (and I doubt that) there is a precisely equivalent term for 'classical' in the Japanese language.

Colin


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:28 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2006 12:42 pm
Posts: 35
Location: Lancashire, England
Colin Lewis wrote:
Richard,
Believe not all you read on Wikipedia. I have seen several incorrect entries, and actually changed one myself (Akadama was defied as a high-fired clay). To use the tern 'classical; to mean a fine example of high quality is incorrect.

Colin


Incorrect entries there may indeed be but in this case wikipedia does agree with:

Oxford English Dictionary(...c. Designating the language, art, or culture of a period deemed to represent the most perfect flowering of the civilization that produced it.)

and,

Websters...1. (fine arts) of or characteristic of a form or system felt to be of first significance before modern times.

2. Of recognized authority or excellence; "the definitive work on Greece"; "classical methods of navigation".


And, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus
Main Entry: vintage
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: Characterized by enduring excellence, appeal, and importance.
Synonyms: classic


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:03 am 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Will Heath wrote:

Certainly you must agree that Amy's and your own words above failed to give us the guidelines you mentioned, "Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines."



Will,

There is no point for any of us trying to define literati in this thread. There is plenty of literature that does that. Bill Valavanis dedicated a whole issue of his magazine to literati, a few years ago. It is a great resource for someone to explore all the aspects of this form.

Each description of literati has its virtues and shortcomings. As always happens in the arts, there is no recipe that fits perfectly.

Your example of "literati" is marginal at best. In the eye of many, it would not be a classic example of literati - as Colin alluded to it (nice taper, plenty of foliage - especially at the apex, pleasing and balanced branching everywhere, almost a lush feel to it). It is using some of the qualities of literati, but it falls far from the essence of it - so I would call it a bonsai with literati overtones. It lacks the sparseness and austerity of literati. But the tree is not trying to be a classic literati at all, so I don't see this as a shortcoming.

P.S.: You've certainly heard of fusion music, where one combines elements of various styles and traditions. Mix ethnic with jazz and new age, and you get a little bit of everything. Fusion kitchen is another one in vogue, right now. There are a large variety of fusion restaurants out there.
Creating fusion art is fun: you don't have to stick to one set of criteria, you can use whatever you want, and often you get quite pleasing results. It is also much easier then being a purist: you have much fewer constraints.
But it is also much more shallow: you don't really need to have a deep understanding of anything, just use the obvious and popular motifs.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 1:27 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:04 pm
Posts: 244
Location: South San Francisco, CA
Will Heath wrote:
Mike,

Certainly you must agree that Amy's and your own words above failed to give us the guidelines you mentioned, "Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines."


Will, you left out the important part of my statement.
Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines. They are found in the work of literati artists beginning in China many centuries ago. This is where anyone interested in this style should begin their study. Forget the bonsai books.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Heath wrote:
I disagree with Amy's statement that "...the literati is the easiest style to create..." Any style is easy to create, but we are not talking about just creation, but successful creation and in that aspect, a successful Literati is the hardest to create.


I also disagree with that statement.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Heath wrote:
Her description of the Literati style resembles attempts by many others to nail the style down, yet this style defies such attempts. Her attempt focuses on generalities only. Literati bonsai has a way of making any such attempt to define it like trying to nail jello to a wall. For example, she states, "The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace." However, the Literati bonsai below ignores her.....


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Steve Tolly's tree is beautiful. However to my eye, it is NOT literati.

Back to "guidelines". For me, the art of the literati are the guidelines.

Mike


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:55 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Amy's whole paragraph needs to be read, not just the first sentence.

She says that literati is easy to create, but successful literati is the hardest to create. Note the words "successful" and "hardest". :)


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 118 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 8  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
cron
Copyright 2006-2008 The Art of Bonsai Project.
All rights reserved.
Original MSSimplicity Theme created by Matt Sims © 2004
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group