Colin Lewis wrote:
There is one element in bonsai as an art that prevents it legitimately being compared with any other art: perpetual change. The only possible comparisons with other visual arts stop at the conceptual stage. Thereafter, bonsai is unique.
This is true. Other art forms do deteriorate and degrade over time, we restore them, clean them, enclose them in protective environments to preserve them, but the time scale for change is far longer than bonsai.
However, if we are to consider bonsai as a legitimate art form, we must take lessons learned from other forms of art to heart, questions such as credit, ownership, how to organize and maintain a collection, the logistics of showing and judging a showing, display, etc.
We can not get away from the association with other forms of art, this is why we call a group of trees a collection and why the caretaker of such a group is called a curator.
There are other art forms with a shorter actual visual life than bonsai. (In comparison to that fleeting show ready moment when we show and photograph bonsai.) Take Peruvian Fleeting Art or the art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, for example.
Bonsai does need to be maintained on a near constant level, yet maintenance with the goal of keeping the original design and the original vision intact is a far cry from designing or redesigning a tree. Goshin is maintained on a regular basis and has been for years, as have other bonsai treasures, yet they are still unmistakably the work of the artist that created them. The visual integrity and the touch of the artist has been preserved.
Colin Lewis wrote:
It is impractical to give credit to all involved since the original artist is often unknown, as are the succession of artists who follow. I work on some centuries old hinoki that bear no resemblance whatsoever to their original forms, nor to their forms fifty years ago. Few of the individual caretakers are known. High quality imports are not the work of any one artist, but the product of a chain of specialists - virtually all anonymous. You can't credit everyone.
Yes, you can't credit everyone and the premise of my article dealt mainly with a single artist/owner change. In example, if I purchased a bonsai from you today and then proceeded to show it all over the world, should you not get credit for creating the tree? Is it ethical if I never mention you and let people assume it was my work? Or let's say I purchased an entire collection from a very talented artist and proceeded to show them here and there, again, should not the creator get the credit for the work? Sure, I would own the trees, they would be part of the Will Heath collection, and my name would no doubt be listed as the exhibitor, but it should not be listed as the artist.
Now, if on a drunken night, I took shears in hand and restyled those trees into my own vision, beyond recognition, erasing the vision left by the previous owners, the trees become mine because the vision becomes mine, I am now the artist, for better, or most likely, for worse.
Of course if the original artist is unknown, we can't name them, as in the case of your Hinokis, but with those trees, you have erased the past work and turned them into your visions, your own dreams, there is no doubt that you are the artist.
And not a bad one at that. ;)