Truly Natural Style Bonsai
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Author:  Walter Pall [ Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:07 am ]
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because so many ignorants think that abstract painting means to just throw paint at a canvass and ask a lot of money for it I hate to hear the term 'abstract' regarding paintings. It leaves too much room for lunatics, lazy people, charlatans and geniuses in disguise. So neve again say 'abstract' in my presence. The word has no real meaning in art.

Author:  Attila Soos [ Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Andy Rutledge wrote:
At the root of my posit is that all bonsai should be naturalistic, in that they should not be unnatural and should not look contrived - no matter their "style." It just pains me to see meaninful terminology abused to the detriment of art.
Kind regards,

Thanks for clarifying that. Reading your reasoning behind what you've originally said, your position makes much more sense. I have to agree that those terms are often abused as excuses for poor bonsai.
Best regards,

Author:  Andy Rutledge [ Wed Jan 04, 2006 12:03 pm ]
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Abstract, impressionistic, cubist, realist, etc... - these all have meaning in the art of painting. There are hundreds, thousands, more... examples of any of these and other meaningful descriptions of motif, genre, movement, tradition, aesthetic, etc... Not so in bonsai!
A good bonsai is a good bonsai. It is evocative, natural-looking, uncontrived, communicative and technically and compositionally sound. Every time I have heard someone other than yourself refer to a bonsai as neo-classical, it is done to describe features that are deficient and malformed. Yes, such examples are often somewhat close to having the "feeling" of a highly refined masterpiece in that the foliage pads might be tight and the silhouette similar to the common modern bonsai theme (often triangular), but the label is applied because of some artifice. Enthsiasts now have a habit of classifying bonsai according to the glaring features that are poorly rendered or misapplied. That's not the same as the examples cited about paintings.
Where are the high-quality examples of purely naturalistic or purely neo-classical or purely abstract bonsai? If anything, these descriptions should apply to the display motif, not the composition of the bonsai itself. What gives here?
Kind regards,

Author:  David Yedwab [ Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:22 pm ]
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Walter and Andy,
Please listen to what each of you are saying. From having discussed some of this with both of you, I think you are after the same thing but saying it differently. And maybe disagreeing a bit over choice of words (Texan vis-a-vis (not versus) Austrian).
You both want well executed bonsai. Not schlock being passed off as the latest trendy and popular thing.
Andy is right. Some, not Walter, are calling unkempt, poorly designed, sloppy trees as "natural or naturalistic". That's not the naturalistic Walter is talking about. We've seen what he means.
Walter is also right. Our "Japanese teachers" taught us pine tree styling for everything because we needed to be taught something in our "classes" and you can't teach growing a beautiful deciduous bonsaI in a four hour or even a six week intensive course. So, until we mature as bonsai artists all we really know how to try to do is 1-2-3 traingle "cookie-cutter" stuff, as Walter calls them.
Maybe we need to be careful with how we use naturalistic - it isn't natural - it looks like an idealized natural tree would, because we made it that way - natual-istic (mimicing nature). Just like a realistic model of a train isn't a train.
I hope this helps bring Walter and Andy closer together on this. For what it's worth, number 2 has me sitting firmly on both sides of the fence (and it hurts) about if it is naturalistic, or not -- it's taper may too extreme and its branches too horizontal -- but it is certainly beautiful and represents a tree I would like to see in my mind's eye of nature or as a real bonsai.

Author:  Andy Rutledge [ Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:51 pm ]
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I appreciate your effort and you're probably right.
However, as to the #2 tree, extreme taper is not something absolute! It is a point of view, as I've described here (the 3 sketches about the middle of the page). Extreme taper describes both power and strength AND a very close-up point of view from ground-level. This is what the artist was trying to portray. Remember, artistry describes and interprets - it does not copy verbatim.
Anyway, I'm sure that Walter and I are much closer in agreement than is obvious here. Such is the limitation of the medium (typed rather than spoken face-to-face. Thanks for your input.
Kind regards

Author:  John Dixon [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:25 am ]
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Andy, David, and Walter,
I would be more than happy to offer my services here. As concerns the problems with #2, please let the current owner know that I am willing to accept the responsibility for keeping this tree off the web for the rest of my life. Just send it to me and I promise to keep it away from the public!!!
Seriously, this thread shows how we all are different yet still similar. Everybody so far (David you aren't that much on the fence) likes the bonsai. We differ about the school of design and how to categorize it, but the basic, yet most important, aspect of art has been satisfied. It is visually pleasing. We all see slightly different attributes and/or faults, but we all like it nonetheless.
Wonderful stuff. Just goes to show you that artistry overcomes logic when we view specimens of bonsai. Now if we can communicate our feelings accurately through words, what a world it would be.

Author:  Walter Pall [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:22 am ]
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the large Chinese elm that you show in this thread:
is a perfect example of the naturalistic style. You know very well that it did NOT grow exactly like this just by itself. You have spent a lot of time making it look like this by considering and possibly moving or directing every single little branch. But it does not seem to having ever been touched by human hands. It is very naturalistic, you can also say realistic which is the opposite to abstract. It is NOT NATURAL as you describe it yourself. Nature did NOT do this.
This tree was not made by someone who tried very hard to create something that looks like a bonsai. This was created to look very much like nature did it. And with great success.
Welcome to the club.
This is the state that a tree like this should be exhibited. It is just slightly overgrown and needs a haircut very soon. The trick is in grooming and licking a tree for years and then let it outgrow just a little to get this natural flavor and then show it in that stage. After the show it is groomed back and will look more abstract for a while again. Perfect treatment as far as I am concerned.
You may well deny that this is naturalistic, but that does not make any difference. This is like Kimura denies to do anything but classical bonsai. How about being menitioned in one sentence with Kimura?
BTW, it is about time we get the possibility to post pictures here directly.

Author:  David Yedwab [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:56 pm ]
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I think we all agree that we are talking about artisitc design - style. And Walter has taken a crack at putting a language around these styles -- as in all other art forms.
But words all have limitations. Like Modern Art pieces created mid-20th century -- not really modern anymore - like meaning now.
So, the small number of us interested in this, know what Walter is striving for when he calls it "naturalistic". Instead of arguing whether it's a good term, let's colllectively find a better one, if there is one.
I don't have an idea yet, but I'm working on it

Author:  Hector Johnson [ Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:21 pm ]
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I can certainly attest that I'm not sufficiently skilled, nor patient, enough to do the work that would lead to bonsai this good.
They may offend the sensibilities of some who are perhaps a little too zealous in their judgment of how a tree should look. Based on the definition I understand best describes bonsai: (A pleasing, artistically styled tree in an aesthetically complimentary pot) these trees make the grade.
Andy, they may not pass muster in some of the shows that you've been to, because of personal preferences by the judges. I would suggest they would meet with approval in many places, though probably not in Taiwan or Thailand, either. They are not stylised enough for those communities.
Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know.

Author:  Soumya Mitra [ Sat Jan 07, 2006 2:13 pm ]
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Natural style? Do the Japanese call the style " Shizen- Zukuri" Looks like the Japanese did know about this style and it is not a new trend that we tend to believe.
Imho, there is little scope to champion its cause as new bonsai style & that to be a very difficult one.
All bonsai styles are difficult to pass as beautiful bonsai & I agree with Andy on this point.

Author:  Hector Johnson [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 9:16 am ]
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I think there's a fair bit of room to disagree with you, there.
It's not really a style that meets with a lot of approval in Japan today. I would suggest that it's becoming a style, with largely Western adherents and overtones, at this point.

Author:  Soumya Mitra [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 2:02 pm ]
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The Chinese also have a name for the 'naturalistic style' . In penjin shapes they term it as 'jungle shape'.This is just one of the 30+styles (with multiple variation under each style) that i know of.
Out of so many other styles this has caught on the fancy of some genious and novice at the same time in western world. The style is beautiful just as any other well executed style .
But the style itself is not new or of recent development & only that is my humble opinion.

Author:  Hector Johnson [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:54 pm ]
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I wouldn't really regard Penjing as Bonsai, much of the time. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't see a lot of artistic merit in producing architectural models of Hong Kong, or clipping topiary into the shape of dragons.
In this instance we are discussing Bonsai. Penjing has diverged sufficiently to be another art, altogether, in my view.
There has been a distinct schism between the two, in artistic terms, over the past century.

Author:  Owen Reich [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 11:47 pm ]
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After taking a look at the three trees in question, I must say that the first A. palmatum is the only "natural looking" one in the group. Japanese mountain maples tend to have multiple trunks when undisturbed by man (especially really old ones). Mountain maples are also prone to branch die-back in drought, high wind, or severe cold conditions. Dead branches do break off and the branch stubs decompose quickly, but I never see any on specimen trees. Doesn't anyone think that it's strange that most bonsai that contain deadwood are conifers? It's not like a massive oak or beech has never been struck by lightning or been deformed by disease.
This leads to the second tree, which among other things is incredible! I think that it looks highly "unnatural", but a specimen bonsai like that is impressive. The sheer amount of time spent to get that A. palmatum to that state is beyond my comprehension.
The stewartia has no visible scars which is very nice but not "natural". As with the second maple, the tree is immaculately maintained with almost no blemishes at all. The only problem I see with this is that they are too perfect. If they were life-size trees, they would have had to been grown in a greenhouse under optimum conditions with no pests or other problems. I feel that showcasing the dramatic curves of a tree's trunk or the exfoliating bark is wonderful, but at what cost to the natural appearance of the tree? Why have the entire front trunkline exposed when a small branch positioned in front of a small section of the trunkline could break up the monotany of a bare trunk once and a while?

Author:  Attila Soos [ Sun Jan 22, 2006 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Owen Reich wrote:
Why have the entire front trunkline exposed when a small branch positioned in front of a small section of the trunkline could break up the monotany of a bare trunk once and a while?

I agree and would rather see a little foliage blocking the view here and there.

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