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 Post subject: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:03 pm 
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This thread is for the discussion of the article "Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance" by Karin Albert.
http://www.artofbonsai.org/feature_arti ... ssance.php


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:18 am 
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An interesting article, voicing a rare and often misunderstood perspective of a country where the notions of PR are still largely lacking.

It does however bring to light an internal conflict. It is my understanding that "individualism" is and has never been a pre-occupation of the Eastern Asians. And this observation is also often extended to every aspect of the East Asian mentality and art, where individualistic manifestation is a not a preoccupation of an Asian artist.

As such, by practising this East Asian "art", it is illogical to have a desire to stamp our own mark in the the final work. The "self" was never put forward in Asian artists and their work, whom almost always pen down their pseudonym embodying his/her ideals, instead of his/her real name. There was never an equivalent to a signed piece of painting clearly marking the artist's name such as Rembrant in Asia as far as I know. I don't think Su Tong was the real name of this great Chinese poet.

As such, I find it quite amusing that Western practitioners seem obsessed to want to create something "original" that truly "represents" themselves, which is a rather megalomaniac and narcissistic pursuit. Whereas, I don't think Naka, Kimura, Kato, etc ever had that in mind when they create their masterpieces.

This, again, begs for a clearer definition of what "art" means, as I do not believe that in its purest definition, the word "art" can be a universal concept to both the west and east. The drive for creativity is, I believe, really a Western contribution to the world. It has "polluted" and influenced other culture's perception of what art means to them, more than they can imagine or realise.

Having said that, the concept of individualism, although never widespread in Asia, was however the preoccupation of the wen-ren/literati/bunjin small circle of people. As such, we could unabashedly proclaim that practitioners who want to produce an original work bearing his/her mark, are really trying to take on bonsai from the literati's perspective.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:00 am 
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Li Zhenxiang wrote:

As such, by practising this East Asian "art", it is illogical to have a desire to stamp our own mark in the the final work. ....

..
As such, I find it quite amusing that Western practitioners seem obsessed to want to create something "original" that truly "represents" themselves, which is a rather megalomaniac and narcissistic pursuit. Whereas, I don't think Naka, Kimura, Kato, etc ever had that in mind when they create their masterpieces.
..



Li,

you may not be aware that quite a few leading western bonsai artists are of the opinion that they are NOT practicing an Asian art form but a universal one. Are the Chinese aware that they play and ENGLISH game when they play tennis or soccer? I don't think so.

There are more and more, especially in Europe, who don't look very much at what Japanese do anymore as there the art seems to stagnate and not progress much. Almost no one looks at what the Chines do and that may change though. And as western artists we certainly want to put ourselves into what we create and it is absolutely not megalomania or narcisstic but to be expected of a western artist. This has nothing to do with bonsai in particular. It is one of the definitions of art to 'put your soul into it'.

And knowing Kimura and many others personally I can assure you that they behave just as any western artists do and some are blamed for it in Asia. Kimura absolutely is 'obsessed' as you say with creating something original. This may well be the reason whoy he is believed to be the greatest by so many in America and Europe and NOT so many in Asia.

In our world one who does not thrive to create something original is simply not an artist but may be a craftsman. And that's considered 'lower' than an artist.

Maybe it is an over-generalization: The Eastern 'artist' tries to do something 'right' and frowns upon the Western 'artsist' who tries to do something 'original'. And the Western 'artsist' thinks the Eastern 'artist' is not an artist but a craftsman.

Walter Pall


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:06 am 
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I would like to clarify that when I employed terms like "megalomania", "narcissistic", and "obsessed", I did not mean it in a negative manner. It was purely for the drama of writing. I for one feel that the quest for originality is a commendable pursuit.

My criticisms, if any, was towards the stagnation (as you mentioned) of bonsai practice in Asia, partly due to the dearth of interest from younger people, and partly due to the quasi-absence of intellectualization desire amongst the general Asian population.

My point was also that if bonsai and penjing were to be taken from a traditional and archaic Asian perspective, individualism would never dominate the thoughts of the practitioner. However, as Asia has lost and still losing most of its attachment to its past due to the greater influence of Western thinking, that is slowly changing. Case in point, your Kimura example.

The current buzz in the world these days seem to be globalisation, and that people are generally concerned that their traditional culture is slowly but surely being eroded away by the omnipresence and the imposing Western culture and values. The blind embrace of the rest of the world (except the Islamic countries) of the Western way of life, Western philosophy and Western aesthetic seem to me to be alarming. We are in danger of a mono-culture, a uniformization of the entire world. Without diversity, humanity cannot thrive. But that's another story.

In brief, I do not see how our opinions would diverge or antagonizes each other...


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 Post subject: Re: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:22 pm 
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Great article, Karin. It addresses a common problem that has always plagued artists from the time of the Cave drawings. Art is like love: it comes and goes as it pleases. Sometimes it kisses certain people and, if lucky, expresses itself through them. True art is like water. People try and grab it but it invariably slips through their fingers. The attempt by anyone to define what an art form should be is a fools errand. Any student of art history will easily be able to give examples of how the mavens of the art world at any particular time will try and define what is "good" or "bad". Its hard to imagine but in the late 1880's, Monet et al were not permitted to show their work at the established art shows of their time. Van Gogh never sold one painting. So much for critiques by experts. The same is happening in bonsai. There is a standard form that has, by herd mentality, been accepted as the only acceptable form. This is ridiculous. It would be like saying, Rembrandt is the standard and everyone should attempt to emulate this style. The Japanese style of bonsai is beautiful but it is only one style. It is not the only style nor should it be. We restrict ourselves in developing our beloved genre by taking this attitude on. Most people try and imitate what is considered great bonsai. They don't want to venture out into the unknown and try something new because they are afraid of criticism. Perhaps there should be an exhibit or part of an exhibit that allows for wild out-there bonsai. Wouldn't that be refreshing? I think Karin's article goes to the heart of this issue. I mean they are only trees.

Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 8:16 pm 
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Superb insights Karin,
What a wonderful clearing you have created for those of us who have spent decades shackled by "guidelne" design criteria.
Surely a higher level of creativity and refinement can be attained by absorbing your sagicous thoughts wth openess and sincerity.

The frankness and scholarly nature of your article moves us a step closer to the late, great Saburo Kato's dream to " keep the torch of peace burning throughout the world"

I do however disagree with your assertion that those seeking an imatative, crafts person approach to penjing would not benefit from reading on.

Every one of us can benefit from knowledge that is factual and enlightening.
Every one of us can reach for a higher plateau wih clarity and vision.

Lao Tzu said
Knpw the child
then know the mother
then go back and embrace the child

I think he said it all.

Cheers
Lindsay


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 Post subject: Re: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:58 pm 
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Many people seem to want to create an original Art form where the the focus is on them and their ideals, but for some reason these brilliant creative artists just talk about it. They seemed lost and confused. I want to help them out.
First, as you value Western ways above all others, I know you will not want to study any Eastern forms as they will only poison your mind.
This should come naturally as you do not care much for history and study anyways. If you have already contaminated your mind with them, try to forget all you have seen.
Since what you will be creating is original you can not and should not use the name Bonsai or Penjing for that matter. Everyone needs to know that you are special and have created your own Art form. Something like Paltre comes to mind, but come up with your own.
You must not use Bonsai Pots, Penjing Trays or Rock slabs as they have already been used in the East. This is an opportunity to create new and better containers using space age materials like carbon fiber or such. Copper and Aluminum wire cant not be used and either can string and bamboo. Try plastic tie wraps and titanium rods, sorry that my idea, you are on your own with this one.
You also are now limited in the material you can use. Only native trees and really if you want to be a trail blazer only those which know one has tried before you.
This is as far as I can take you, you have to go it alone from here.
Now its time to do more than talk about what type of exhibit there "should be". YOU need to make it happen, NO ONE will do this for you either
and you must be original.
Oh, I almost forgot, please remember to throw away ALL your Japanese bonsai tools, you don't need them any more!
Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 3:03 pm 
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Mark Arpag wrote:
Many people seem to want to create an original Art form where the the focus is on them and their ideals, but for some reason these brilliant creative artists just talk about it. They seemed lost and confused. I want to help them out.
First, as you value Western ways above all others, I know you will not want to study any Eastern forms as they will only poison your mind.
This should come naturally as you do not care much for history and study anyways. If you have already contaminated your mind with them, try to forget all you have seen.
Since what you will be creating is original you can not and should not use the name Bonsai or Penjing for that matter. Everyone needs to know that you are special and have created your own Art form. Something like Paltre comes to mind, but come up with your own.
You must not use Bonsai Pots, Penjing Trays or Rock slabs as they have already been used in the East.
This is as far as I can take you, you have to go it alone from here.
Oh, I almost forgot, please remember to throw away ALL your Japanese bonsai tools, you don't need them any more!
Mark


Bonsai is now an English word so don't feel beholden to its Asian roots. And having a western view doesn't mean one can't use bonsai pots and other techniques from Asia just because they use them in Asia. That's the most bogus premise I've heard in along time. Like it or not one can practice bonsai very well without any regard to what is being done in Japan or China. I personally don't ignore what is going on there but many do and thrive.


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 Post subject: Re: Penjing: A Chinese Renaissance by Karin Albert
PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:58 am 
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Rob,

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Many feel that that they pretty much know it all and do not keep an open mind with others.
This has become an epidemic with with many well know western Bonsai authorities and self proclaimed "masters".
They discourage others from independent thought and ridicule those people and ideals which differ from their own "brand" of bonsai.
I would say this has become the accepted method rather than an exception. Generally, no one challenges these "masters" or have a clue that
there are other schools of thought. Much of what is taught by them is repeated without question and accepted to be fact.
Here is part of the issue, I strongly disagree with many of these "masters" and in fact I think that what they are teaching is so counter to Real Bonsai that it can be called False Bonsai.
Bonsai is a Japanese Art form which is now practiced with widely varying degrees of understanding around the world.
'The heart and aesthetics of Bonsai are born from century's of Japanese philosophy and culture producing its essence.
The gift of Bonsai is precious to me. I believe it is the highest form of Artistic expression and I am grateful to the Japanese
people for sharing it with the world. If one does not have gratitude and respect in their heart but instead takes an egocentric approach
to Bonsai, no matter how many techniques they apply, their Bonsai will fail.
As I mentioned at the start, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Here are a few thoughts about yours.

"Bonsai is now an English word" What does this mean to you, it is now no longer a Japanese word and we ignore its origins?

".so don't feel beholden to its Asian roots" Respect and gratitude are not demanded, they are deserved.

"having a Western view doesn't mean one cannot use Bonsai pots and other techniques from Asia." You are correct but it is intellectually dishonest
to claim a western superiority and a unique Western approach and use Japanese techniques, tools, pots, display stands terminology in all your "originality".

"just because they use them in Asia" They developed and invented these things, a great distinction from just using them.

" The most bogus premise I have heard in a long time." Interesting word choice. Bogus or"NOT genuine" is exactly what many people are producing and they do not understand the difference. Can you really say it is Bonsai if you have not taken the time to seek it out and understand what that really is?
"Like it or not one can practice Bonsai very well without any regard to what is being done in Japan or China"
If you mean gain superficial knowledge that originated from Asia and then pretend that you got to that point on your own, I would say No.

This does not mean accepting everything that comes from Japan without question.

Rob, as a VP of BCI and someone who travels around the world for Bonsai, I have been shocked by some of your positions.
I would think someone in your position would have shown more respect for the Japanese culture than you did with your comments
regarding Morimae's vist to honor Fudo. It does not matter that they are not your beliefs, what is important is that you show respect for
cultural differences. The same thing applies to Japanese Bonsai and culture or any other countries.
If you do not have it in your heart to show respect and gratitude surely you can show no disrespect.
I just saw your new book recently. I have not read it but the "global" perspective thing on the cover did catch my attention. I do enjoy seeing
Bonsai from around the world and their interpretation of the Art. Many Japanese Bonsai teachers encourage the use of native species and drawing from native landscape scenes that inspire. I agree with them.
Everyone must find their own path with Bonsai. The issue I have is with self appointed masters and internet authorities arrogantly promoting and teaching Bonsai to the masses when they themselves have only garnered a very superficial understanding of mostly techniques alone. It is one thing for an individual to chose this path and practice Bonsai from this position. Teachers, in my opinion have a much greater responsibility.

This means seeking a deeper understanding and insight to more than form and technique alone.
This means actually studying the Heart and Soul of Bonsai before making sweeping generalizations based on superficial knowledge.
This means you can not substitute "30 years doing Bonsai" or "I have traveled all over the globe" for actually studying the foundations of Bonsai.

Not all, but too many "self taught" and self appointed "masters" act as if they got where they are in a vacuum, with only themselves to thank.
Worse yet, others look up to them and they give views which are uneducated. That is they did not come to these conclusions AFTER real study
but after very superficial knowledge was gained. Most are hyper sensitive to having their thoughts challenged because they know in their hearts
that they have only superficial knowledge.

In a recently retracted article, an author misrepresented the thoughts of Seiji Morimae. He presented his own interpretation of Morimae's thoughts rather than let the thoughts stand on their own. This author has dismissed Japanese Bonsai and teachings for years but only has a superficial knowledge of it. He may have 30 years "doing bonsai" but the way he used Morimaes words to make a case for his brand of Bonsai illustrates how much he does not understand.This same author mocked me for stating that Morimae's words were precious to me. I can assure you that the thoughts that Morimae shared were deeply personal and heart felt as well as precious to him.
When he gave this gift, he gave it from his heart with the best intentions.This, as well as seeing this gift as nothing more than an opportunity to validate his brand of Bonsai are very offensive to me and those value Morimae's insight.
He claims not to understand what he did "wrong" and I believe him. The problem is, he has fallen due to his own lack of knowledge and understanding.

One last observation, I have found that the people with the greatest knowledge, understanding and insight are the most humble and who continue to study out of a real love of Bonsai.They do not need to tell you how good they are and how much better they are than others.These are the REAL Bonsai Masters.
They encourage study and are disappointed with those that are looking for a quick spoon feeding of cheap greasy bits or worse, selling them.

Regards,
Mark


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