The Shohin Bonsai of Morten Albek
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Author:  Editorial Staff [ Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  The Shohin Bonsai of Morten Albek

This thread is for discussing the feature gallery "The Shohin Bonsai of Morten Albek"

Author:  Peter Evans [ Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Morten, I have looked at your gallery several times but have only just logged on to your forum. I am shocked that nobody has replied before. The photographs are stunning,and the trees aren't bad either . I love the Pine best. I have started to develope a few shohin myself over the past 18 months and find your trees very inspirational. Regards, Peter.

Author:  Morten Albek [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 3:25 am ]
Post subject:  Improving slowly

Hi Peter
Thank you Peter. Well, in general my trees still lacks some time before getting really good. Some trees in the gallery need much work and patience to be good, others are in need of less time. Bonsai takes the time it takes.
Also with Shohin, allthough faster results some times can be achieved. The Lonicera for example shows a better canopy now than just four months ago, but still needs some spring growth to present all the beauty of this tree. I enjoy showing them allthough not all at a very high level yet, because inspiration might flow anyway, and we need some Shohin on stage (even when not ?perfect?) to support the development of this branch of bonsai that I am so funned of. I am not into buying finished stuff ready to show, both due to the high prices, and because I love to develop from basic materials or all from scratch. I am glad so many people seem to give it a try with Shohin these days.
Attached, the Lonicera nitida as it looks now..., and a autumn image of the Cotoneaster.
Best regards
Morten Albek

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Author:  Peter Evans [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 2:23 pm ]
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Hi Morten. To be honest I did find the Lonicera hard to understand. It is a lovely piece of wood but needs a lot more foliage. As i said before,i have only just started to grow Shohin trees and like you I prefer to find my own stock, for the same resons.I think a lot of the joy of Bonsai comes from finding the material,be it yamadori or nursery stock. The pleasure of finding just the right piece you have in mind for a project is emmense. I started a Lonicera of my own last year which has a lot of potential. If i can work out how to attach a pic' i will send you one. I have also checked out your web site,wich i find very interesting. Keep up the good work. Regards, Peter

Author:  David Loughran [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:28 pm ]
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I too was wondering about the Honeysuckle. How do you justify its lack of foliage? What's its "story"? From what I've seen in nature, generally speaking, the thicker the trunk, the broader the canopy. Even with very old trees this is true as well as the fact that trees with thicker caliper trunks also have thicker, very developed branches.
Is this Honeysuckle meant to be more of a sculptural piece, a study in texture perhaps or is it meaning to be a tree?

Author:  Morten Albek [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 5:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Peter and David

1) As said before, the Lonicera wasn?t fully grown at the time it was presented. (I was asked for a gallery submission and came up with what was the best at that time).

2) The tree actually looks a lot better in real life. The pictures doesn?t do it real justice.

Then to David?s questions. I do not need to justify for lack of foliage David (allthough I have done in the above text) and the previous post. But do I need to do that? I just present a tree at the stage it is, and nothing more. Shown a little to early maybe, but that?s how it is.

Regarding the question about what I want to show with this bonsai. Well, I think this tree shows something in between a tree and a sculpture, true for all bonsai I think, but especially for Shohin-bonsai which often has an implied expression of a tree in their simpler structure demanded by the size.

I am no master in Shohin. I am an enthusiast as many, doing the best I can. I present what I have, and hope some like what they see, and are inspired to make Shohin-bonsai. I hope to develop good Shohin along the journey, but as everyone knows, it takes the time it takes when these are grown from basic or young material.

I started training Shohin-bonsai app. five years ago, so it will last a bit before the very good trees shows up, no matter how hard I work, and how dedicated I have studied this branch of bonsai these years.

Regarding the canopy fitting the trunk size, one cannot compare Shohin with normal bonsai, nor compare bonsai too much with trees in nature. Bonsai is a reflection of nature, not an exact copy. Shohin are even less showing the exact features of a natural tree. Shohin mirrors the feelings of a large tree, but it is important to approach this image far more relaxed than with larger scaled bonsai. Shohin is very small, and will not make the same image, so you need to be very much freer in your approach to Shohin. Remember this tree is only 16cm high. Therefore the canopy will newer be the same with as if it was a larger bonsai that was made of a trunk of the same proportions in larger scale. This will not fit this one I think. But that?s my view. The branch structure and thickening branches, takes a very long time with this specimen. It will take at least another 8-10 years to develop satisfying main branches. So I just train the tree and wait.

I hope you see what I mean. Else, just write again.
Best regards
Morten Albek

Author:  David Loughran [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 10:12 pm ]
Post subject: 

I do see what you mean. I hope you took no offense at my question. I know very little about shohin and I was wondering exactly how shohin factor into the spectrum of bonsai. I do very much enjoy your bonsai and your approach therein.

Author:  Morten Albek [ Wed Nov 29, 2006 3:06 am ]
Post subject:  No offence

Hi David
No offence taken at all! I prefer that people ask why I do like I do, rather than just wondering what the h... I am doing. So thank you for your interest.
Best regards

Author:  Peter Evans [ Wed Nov 29, 2006 3:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Morten. Like David ,no critisisum was ment. The new immage shows a better ballance. It is also refreshing to know that you also suffer from trees that do not peform for the camera.With regards your comments on canopy/trunk size, i have been led to beleve that ballance between wood and foliage was most important but in light of your views i will try to relax my outlook with regard Shohin training. I have read that when growing Mame size trees that a single leaf can represent a branch, so i assume that for Shohin a few leaves will do the same. I look forward to seeing the Lonicera LIVE. Regards, Peter.

Author:  Morten Albek [ Wed Nov 29, 2006 6:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Great

It might be my not perfect English that makes it sound like I am taking your comments negatively, but I don't.

It is right (according to my Japanese teachers regarding Shohin) that the image of a Shohin, doesn't follow the same aesthetic paths compared with larger bonsai.

And it is exactly right that leaves sometimes suggest branches, in an implied way. Imagination is necessary when watching a Shohin and one must be more relaxed when approaching this kind of bonsai.

Actually, there is a much more relaxed and helpful community around Shohin and Mame-bonsai in Japan, where the larger bonsai artist seems to take their art very serious.

This relaxed approach appeals to me, as the aesthetic does.
Thanks for your comments and questions. Just keep it going.
Best regards
Morten Albek

Author:  Will Heath [ Wed Nov 29, 2006 10:14 pm ]
Post subject: 

The Honeysuckle takes on what has become known as a sumo style, as do a few of your other bonsai. This trunk to height ratio seems to always lend itself to the sparce foliage appearance, maybe because of the illusion it gives.
I personally prefer a more balanced trunk to height ratio, what are your thoughts on this?


Author:  Morten Albek [ Thu Nov 30, 2006 4:38 am ]
Post subject:  Sumo or not

Hi Will
Good question that also raises a few other questions and answers for me.
These answers are primarely related to Shohin, and can?t be transferred to larger bonsai, which will be explained in the below text.
I am trying to keep the Lonicera pretty much with the massive trunk as the main attraction. The foliage must be developed more, adding a little more foliage in front of the trunk giving more depth to the image, also adding one cm to the height of the tree. (See the photo/drawing).
Present height of the tree is 16 cm, later it will be 17 cm. This makes it fit with other of my Shohin-bonsai that it is planned to be displayed with.
It will not be a naturalistic tree in the sense that seems to be so modern at the moment. I like some naturalism in my bonsai, but I am not into this preaching of a certain movement in bonsai.
I think a lot of different artist have their own personal touch making their work special, because it is their expression of a bonsai. Regardless of their style, because one can take it or leave it. Rather let the artworks talk for you, instead of talking the bonsai into fame.
The sumo style
One could claim that the so called sumo style (good description of this style) mirrors the Japanese Black Pine or Juniper, which is a traditional top tree at the Shohin racks when displaying. These Pines and Junipers very often (or nearly always) have a little fat trunk, with a massive canopy, often covering the trunk more or less.
(These gets pretty uninteresting, because they are reproduced in large numbers all the like but that?s aside the subject).
The Lonicera has the massive trunk instead of massive foliage, which makes it a powerful tree as top tree at a Shohin rack.
Shinpaku Juniper, Mame-bonsai, 11 cm.
Shohin, White Pine.
The function of the Lonicera is to be the main tree at a Shohin rack. Here it serves the purpose of bringing peace and harmony to the display with its formal style. The strength of this tree is shown through the massive trunk, and simplicity.
This gives room for trees with a looser style, with more movement e.g. at the lover shelf at a leveled display rack.
Judging the Shohin as individual tree is all right, but not telling the full story. A Shohin always is part of a display with more trees. The smaller the Shohin, the more trees are exhibited in a group, with the overall purpose of showing the beauty of the display, with a clear seasonal expression.
Mame-bonsai, early autumn.
The main tree must not steel the picture, but support evenly the beauty and harmony of the display. Therefore there is less room for very informal or wild styled trees, because these will risk ruining the peace and harmony of the overall display. It is a matter of balance between the elements, and here the sumo style fits in, when talking Shohin aesthetics and displaying.
So the trunk to height ratio may be inappropriate at larger trees, but in the Shohin world, it seems to fit in, in my opinion.
When larger Shohin-bonsai are displayed, there is more room for trees with greater artistic freedom.
The room for displaying is always the same for Shohin. The smaller the bonsai, the more can be displayed. The larger the bonsai, the fewer are displayed.
An exception is the newly founded Mame-Bonsai Association in Japan (2005), were the display area is scaled to fit the Mame-bonsai at their latest exhibition.
Larger Shohin, or a Chuhin (midd size bonsai) displayed with a Shohin supporting the large tree (not as an accent), gives the possibility of a more artistic display. Here the sumo style will not fit in large scale. Then a broader canopy according to trunk size will be appropriate. So it very much depends of the size what to choose. And exceptions from above might be found too.
Morten Albek

Author:  Peter Evans [ Thu Nov 30, 2006 2:20 pm ]
Post subject: 

Brilliant!. I have learnt more about Shohin in this last week than the previous 2 years. Thank you Morten for the input. It also shows the use of this type of site,so thanks also to Will,Paul for your efforts. Looks like there is a new book to add to the Christmas list. Regards, Peter.

Author:  Will Heath [ Thu Nov 30, 2006 4:48 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Peter, but the credit for AoB should go to all the active editors including Carl, Walter, David, Candy, Dorthy, Attila, Paul and myself. Without this team, AoB wouldn't be what it is.
Excellent answerr and explaination Morten, thanks.


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