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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:38 am 
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The Ginkgo bonsai Colin posted is, in my opinion:

Formal upright style (Trunk shape)
Broom stye (Feeling, branches)
Literati (Feeling, elegant, light open and airy)
Single tree style (Method of planting)

However, I am quick to point out that when in leaf, this Ginkgo bonsai would not be considered a literati style...

Bill

So, it is incorrect to "only" classify this bonsai as a:

Broom style
or
Formal upright style
or
Literati style
or
Single tree style

Each of these classifications depends on many factors, and "most" people usually just classify the bonsai as what is the most prominent feature (focal point). Note that I did not list a focal point for this bonsai, since I don't see one.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:40 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Vance Wood wrote:
I see your point with this tree and I agree it can be three styles at the same time but If I had to put it into a single category it would be Literati. The question is why? In my mind the things that make it Literati far out-weigh the things that make it anything else.


I absolutely agree, each trunk and the composition as a whole present the character or 'feel' of literati.

The previous tree, which Will sees as feminine and I see as masculine was offered somewhat with tongue in cheek, since I think it is too masculine, too powerful to qualify as literati at all.

Now... is this tree literati?
Attachment:
WESTERN-DISPLAY-AWARD.jpg


Denuded of leaves you might be able to make the argument that it is Literati--maybe. Then again maybe not; it is real border line. However here is the problem with it. If the tree were in leaf it would still be a broom. Oddly I have seen trees like this around where I live.

Originally a member of a grove, forced by nature to grow tall and straight in a competition for light. When urban development encroached on the environment this solitary tree was left as the surviving representative of its community. Consequently over the years the top of the tree developed normally into the classic broom shape atop a long tall trunk. I have in the past called this the urban-broom style.

You could argue effectively that it is Literati but I think its propensity towards the broom trumps its Literati traits. But again; we are talking opinion and feelings.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:18 am 
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Another reason why I would not calassify the broomstyle Ginko as a literati is the absence of age. The tree can under favourable conditions still develop into a normal broomstyle as Vance observed in nature.
To me an excellent literati tree reminds of a geriatric, not a juvenile. Everything that can contribute to the impression of age such as old bark is a plus. The juvenile can still accomodate new growth where the true geriatric literati cannot grow vigorously again without either falling over or breaking a branch. It must give the impression that "this is as far as I can grow"


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:01 am 
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Louis Nel wrote:
Another reason why I would not calassify the broomstyle Ginko as a literati is the absence of age. The tree can under favourable conditions still develop into a normal broomstyle as Vance observed in nature.
To me an excellent literati tree reminds of a geriatric, not a juvenile. Everything that can contribute to the impression of age such as old bark is a plus. The juvenile can still accomodate new growth where the true geriatric literati cannot grow vigorously again without either falling over or breaking a branch. It must give the impression that "this is as far as I can grow"


You make an excellent point, Louis: "this is as far as I can grow". That encapsulates a large chunk of what is the essence of literati.

The ginkgo? It hasn't yet reached that stage, and I suspect that, as a ginkgo, it never will. Some other broadleaved species might achieve broom-style literati recognition even in leaf, but not ginkgo, sadly.

It is beginning to occur to me that literati, more than any other bonsai style, is a scaled-down replica of a specific tree type in nature - unperfected and unaffected, and unsubjected to formulaic impositions. The only style where age is an essential qualifying (rather than qualitative) factor.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:44 am 
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So at this point it can be said that the Literati must be, or appear to be, old. I think I agree with this but I'm sure someone else will prove me wrong.

Outside of that parameter there are some physical traits that seem to make the form identifiable as Literati.

1.) Slender trunk

2.) Austere branching

3.) Sparse foliage

4.) Appearance of age

Any others?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:33 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
So at this point it can be said that the Literati must be, or appear to be, old. I think I agree with this but I'm sure someone else will prove me wrong.

Outside of that parameter there are some physical traits that seem to make the form identifiable as Literati.

1.) Slender trunk

2.) Austere branching

3.) Sparse foliage

4.) Appearance of age

Any others?



Vance, I think you have covered it. I also think that we are back to my first post on this thread. Your above list of literati characteristics quite well match the image I attached to my first post.

Best Regards

Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:16 pm 
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Quote:
Outside of that parameter there are some physical traits that seem to make the form identifiable as Literati.

1.) Slender trunk

2.) Austere branching

3.) Sparse foliage

4.) Appearance of age


I think number 1 can already be removed, as has been shown previously by Attila (previous page!). As for number 4 I hope all bonsai have that quality!

I like Will's
Quote:
The absense of other defining factors to date for Literati leaves us with

Minimalism
Empasis on the trunk


But this is far from a definition, and Emphasis on the trunk, is granted to all other styles as well.
I don't believe that this style has any magic just because it does not have a set of guidelines to follow. Well probably Minimalism but that's about it.
Anyway after reading this entire thread I don't think the definition will go much further than this. Hopefully someone may prove me wrong.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:10 pm 
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OK, let's put it this way. If you had to describe a Literati to someone who had never seen one, or seen a picture of one how would you start? Try, if you can, to avoid things like feelings, because these are relative, not subjective and make the listener assign something ethereal to an object they are trying to gain a substantive realization for.

Having completed that task, how would you define or describe a good Literati from a bad one? Is there such a thing? Is it just opinion or is there something that makes it more or less universally identifiable?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:38 pm 
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Thats easy Vance, the answer is, you can not, you can only describe one particular tree. That, you can do quite well. Like describing Colin§s literati. But you cannot described the entire "style", the moment you do, you will always find one that breaks away from what ever norm has been set.
As for a good literati from a bad literati. Ummm thats not so easy. It is sort of a personal judgement. As such it depends much on the knowledge of the person. By knowledge I dont mean a text book type of knowledge, but the type you get from observation from either nature or other bonsai. That is the same as to ask what is a good or bad bonsai period. Who will judge? my guess it is that only time will judge, those pictures of good bonsai that will be remember and will always be regarded as good bonsai, will mean that they were good know and in the future. Those that are forgoten, probably were not so good. But thats my thought on the subject. An example of this. Well is all over, just grab any book of bonsai from the 60, 70, 80 etc and you will find lots of trees that can hardly be called bonsai. But there are some that even today are good bonsai. Examples can be found, in books like Kimura, who would not want one of his trees today!


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:40 pm 
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Location: New England, USA
Vance Wood wrote:
OK, let's put it this way. If you had to describe a Literati to someone who had never seen one, or seen a picture of one how would you start?


Frankly, I'd refer them to John Naka's description. I don't think his depth of understanding of literati and considered expression thereof could be topped.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:23 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
So, we are back to a dream, a vision?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:24 pm 
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Must we create a" build a Literati check list" to humor those without a clue or the desire to find one?
Many of the fine points of Literati are contrary to what is expected and accepted by most Bonsaist as of being of value.One example which comes to mind is the appreciation of imperfection. If you believe that perfect Bonsai are the summit of achievement, how can it be possible that imperfection can be elevated in Literati appreciation? Those that are looking for the obvious will not be receptive to anything of greater importance.

Mark


Last edited by Mark Arpag on Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:31 pm 
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Mark Arpag wrote:
Since this is the Art of Bonsai website, must we create a" build a Literati check list" to humor those without a clue or the desire to find one?
Many of the fine points of Literati are contrary to what is expected and accepted by most Bonsaist as of being of value.One example which comes to mind is the appreciation of imperfection. If you believe that perfect Bonsai are the summit of achievement, how can it be possible that imperfection can be elevated in Literati appreciation? Those that are looking for the obvious will not be receptive to anything of greater importance.

Mark


Mark, you are right on the "mark" concerning "perfection". I've said it before, and I expect criticism for saying it again, but here goes anyway. In this plane of existance, there is no perfection. Only in death is there perfection. Why is this? Because, it cannot be made better. It cannot be made worse.

Love the "imperfection" of literati. It mirrors the human condition.

Mike


Last edited by Mike Page on Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:01 am 
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Mark Arpag wrote:
Must we create a" build a Literati check list" to humor those without a clue or the desire to find one?

Since you seem to imply that you have a clue somehow lacking in the others in this discussion, could you then humor us with your definition of what makes a tree cross over the line to Literati?

Mark Arpag wrote:
Many of the fine points of Literati are contrary to what is expected and accepted by most Bonsaist as of being of value. One example which comes to mind is the appreciation of imperfection. If you believe that perfect Bonsai are the summit of achievement, how can it be possible that imperfection can be elevated in Literati appreciation? Those that are looking for the obvious will not be receptive to anything of greater importance.


I never equated imperfection with Literati, in fact quite the opposite. The Literati style itself arose from a search for perfection, a single brush stoke that captured the entire essence of a tree...these paintings by the Literati and especially the trees within them were so inspiring that bonsaists attempted to duplicate them using actual living material as their medium, hence the Literati style classification.

This may well be what we are looking for, figuratively speaking. A Literati bonsai is one that captures the essence of a tree with as few brush strokes as possible.

Remember the disclaimer given by the judges when discussing Mike Page's tree, each judge who commented said that it needed to lose 50% of its foliage.

Also note that quite often when one is discussing a Literati, a mention of it being too lush, too full, or having too much foliage is often heard, it has happened in this very thread. We also hear about too many or too low branching.

We touched upon this with the word minimalism, but all bonsai should practice such. Literati is more than that, it is trying to tell a story with a single sentence, or 17 syllables, if you will. It is painting a tree with one brush stroke, it is living a life in one day. If there is one thing left that the tree could do without and still be visually appealing, it has failed as a Literati.



Will


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:12 am 
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Sorry to not participate in this debate with words. I think it is not as important as many seem to think to define styles rigidly. I rather do bonsai and don't care too much how someone wants to classify them. This one I usually refer to as a broadleaved literati.
I agree to Bill's thoughts. It is about feeling and not about form. This gives me what I see as literati feeling although it is a broadleved tree. Which may be very different from what mainstream feels. Or not?
Some thoughts?

It is a European field elm, Ulmus campestre, 50 cm high and around 40 years old.

Walter


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