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 Post subject: Artistic Merits of Moss?
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 3:35 am 
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Location: Zoetermeer/the Netherlands
Hi all,
One of the things i notice on most of the entries in the North American vs European Phioto Contest here is that the bonsaisoil is not covered completely or not at all, by moss.
I always have learned from the Japanese that, when you put a bonsai on exposition the soil always has to be covered totally!
Especially with the shohin bonsai this is and should be one of the basic rules!If you have a good look in all kokofu books and daikan-ten books you will see that all soil is covered.
I wonder why this is not done by most people, in my opnion the trees without moss look just repotted now, smile.
I do know and understand that, especially about creating shohin-expositions there is still a lot of work and teaching to be done.
See you all!
Daan Giphart
The Netherlands


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 4:52 am 
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Daan,
you have to listen whoever you think can tell you the 'real truth'.
I preach that it is NOT a good idea to cover everything with moss. This is out of fashion and it is not natural anyway. Artistically it usually looks best if there are a few moss patches just around the trunk and then some nice looking fine gravel on the rest of the surface.
The moss thing with Japanese exhibits comes form the times when a bonsai was ONLY exhibited in a tokonoma. This is a Buddhist house altar. And one would never have some dirt on a house altar. Therefore it was a no-no to have any soil visible on these bonsai.
If one does a classical tokonoma setting it might still be important for some to cover everything with moss. I would still not do this to make a point.
The point is that this is absolutely not a Japanese game anymore. It is a wold wide game and the rules are gradually made world wide. As long as bonsai was a craft (until around 1975 and up to 1985) one could make statements like 'this HAS to be done'. Since it is treated as an art anything goes.
You have the right though to not like it. But one would make a fool of oneself to demand that something is 'right' or 'wrong'. Bonsai fundamentalists are a dying out species. Also in Japan! Read my travelogues blog!
Walter


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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 9:54 am 
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Thanks for your input on this issue Walter. I had never heard of, or thought about, the significance of the Tokonoma display and the use of moss. This is kind of an eye opener. I have never had a problem growing moss, usually I have a problem having too much of it.
You also make an excellent point about Art and Craft which I agree with. As to art: I have had thoughts that a totally moss covered soil and a conifer seem to be somewhat incongruous in the same planting together. It is like the representation of a mountain tree suffering the ravages of nature with rugged bark and dead wood, growing on a golf course. The two just don't seem to go together, logically, in the same setting.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 2:53 pm 
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Hi Walter,
Thanks for the reaction!
As you know( we know eachother , we have met) i am most of the time one of the people who is renewing expositions and stands.
I do know bonsai is not a fully japanese or chinese game anymore but as you know its all a matter of taste as well.
For the larger trees i agree that the soil does not have to be covered, again its a matter of taste but with shohin bonsai this is a bit of another issue, in my opinion( again its a matter of taste) for me and many others , shohin bonsai in display without moss look poor and just repotted.
So i am not demanding such at all i am only making a discussion about it.
For me its not right or wrong at all ,besides that, nothing wrong with bonsai fundamentalists. So i think its a bit strange to say that anyone is making a fool of him or herself by having their own taste.
Renewings in shohinbonsai displaying are often not well understood by a lot of people but also not rejected. But is the bonsai loving world ready for renewing? It depends where you are and what kind of background the people have.
Its real good to notice that renewings in shohinbonsaidisplays are often well understood and well appreciated! But also the classic displays are higly appreciated at all times. This is the way it should be, to be able to appreciate all, right?
Daan Giphart


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 3:52 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
Editor Note:
This thread has been moved from the contest forum here to the Art of Bonsai Discussion area. Daan messaged me explaining that he meant to post in the contest discussion area, but before corrections could be made, members had already responded.
Although the content remains the same, the title has been changed.


Last edited by Will Heath on Sat May 26, 2007 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 4:03 pm 
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Bonsai is an illusion and bonsai artists create illusions of grand old trees. Moss, like so many other things can add or distract from that illusion. Too many people fail to realize the purpose of moss, they simply plop it on without thought or inspiration and what they achieve is moss that looks exactly like what it is, moss.
Used correctly, and with the same creative talent that makes a small shrub look like a huge ancient tree, moss can give the illusion of grass, undergrowth, and other naturally occurring plants that add to the overall illusion.
How can moss be used creatively? One trick I like is using a darker shade of moss inside the drip line and a lighter shade out side of it. This gives the illusion of grass being shaded by the foliage, it can make the tree look like a good place to rest, out of the sun, int the shade cast by the magnificent old tree.
Another common mistake is when moss is allow to grow over the entire surface area as mentioned above. I have seen great old scarred and twisted bonsai with such a full moss covering. It always makes me wonder how the grass escaped the extremes of nature that sculpted the tree. I wrote more about this in an article here http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=102 .
We style a small tree or shrub to give the illusion of a huge old tree, we should style the moss, if used, to resemble grass, or other such undergrowth, it should never look like moss.

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2007 6:09 pm 
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A bit of a side bar from someone who has had an abundance of the stuff. If you allow the moss to completely cover the surface of the soil you will not affect the drainage as some are likened to say but it does create a problem. Because moss will hold a good deal of moisture the evaporation from the same tends to moisten the surface of the trunk and encourage moss to grow on the trunk; something you do not want. This can, if left unchecked, damage the texture and color of the bark. If it stays long enough it can cause the surface to rot. This much moss will also over grow the nebari. So moss is nice but not too much.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 6:45 pm 
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With all due respect, what is being discussed here is moss for exhibit, not moss growing on the surface of the soil. When a tree is shown at Kokufu Ten, the tree will (usually) be potted in an antique container just for the show, and moss will be carefully and artistically placed just for the show. As soon as the exhibition is over, the tree will be returned to its regular growing pot and the moss will most likely be removed.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 7:56 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
With all due respect, what is being discussed here is moss for exhibit, not moss growing on the surface of the soil. When a tree is shown at Kokufu Ten, the tree will (usually) be potted in an antique container just for the show, and moss will be carefully and artistically placed just for the show. As soon as the exhibition is over, the tree will be returned to its regular growing pot and the moss will most likely be removed.

That may be true but the truth of the matter is that many in the US leave the moss on the tree all the time. From personal experience this is what I do. Outside the problems I pointed out previously, many of the arguments for not allowing moss to remain on the soil indefinitely are simply not true.
Yes you are correct we are discussing the artistic use of moss but as is the case of many more or less temporary and applied techniques, such as moss and limed sulfured driftwood, there are cultivational and technical aspects that are worthy of discussion as well. After all, if you cannot grow it, or apply it, and you do not know what will happen if you do so improperly, then how can you use it artistically?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:22 pm 
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Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
I missed this thread and was referred to it by the NA vs Europe discussion.
Chris Johnston wrote:
With all due respect, what is being discussed here is moss for exhibit, not moss growing on the surface of the soil. When a tree is shown at Kokufu Ten, the tree will (usually) be potted in an antique container just for the show, and moss will be carefully and artistically placed just for the show. As soon as the exhibition is over, the tree will be returned to its regular growing pot and the moss will most likely be removed.


Chris, having visited many bonsai gardens in Japan, including the Imperial Palace bonsai collection, and having photographed many of the trees, I can attest that many top quality Japanese trees have their soil totally covered in moss while growing in the garden. Even so I have witnessed apprentices removing the regular moss and replacing it with new moss that looks more artistic for exhibition. Moss and other ground cover is a key component of showing a tree.
I am going to post a couple of sample shots - a bunch of pines growing in a shed in the Emperor's collection. These are average run of the mill trees in Japan. They are not being exhibited any time soon. Note the moss.
A photograph of Kimura's famous Shimpaku. Not in a show (see the algae on the live vein), just living in the garden.
Finally, a pine for sale in Takamatsu. The moss is peaked but totally covering the soil.
I have hundreds of other photographs that back this up. In fact, it is the exception that doesn't have moss on all the soil.


Attachments:
Emperor pines in shed small.JPG [102.05 KiB]
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Kimura Juniper famous small.JPG [126.02 KiB]
Downloaded 265 times
Takamatsu JBP long branchsm.JPG [181.61 KiB]
Downloaded 253 times


Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:33 pm 
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Walter Pall wrote:
Daan,
I preach that it is NOT a good idea to cover everything with moss. This is out of fashion and it is not natural anyway. Artistically it usually looks best if there are a few moss patches just around the trunk and then some nice looking fine gravel on the rest of the surface.
Walter

Greetings Walter - I don't want to drege up the past too much, but your first paragraph is really a matter of personal taste, and not gospel. Myself, I like covering the soil with a variety of ground covers/moss. Bare soil is only used to convey an open space in a saikei or penjing planting.
Walter Pall wrote:
The moss thing with Japanese exhibits comes form the times when a bonsai was ONLY exhibited in a tokonoma. This is a Buddhist house altar. And one would never have some dirt on a house altar. Therefore it was a no-no to have any soil visible on these bonsai.

I was wondering if you have a reference for this statement. I'd like to learn more about this topic from the original citation.
PS I hear you are in Washington state next week. So will I, but I will be in the middle of the state so the odds of a hook up are slim.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 5:41 am 
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Rob,
this statement comes from Udo Fischer, who is the President of the Japanese Professionql Association for Germayn. He has this from Hideo Suzuki, with whom he has studied since more than six years.
Udo has aksed me why I would exhibit trees in public without covering all soil with moss. Then we had this exact discussion as we have here. He, as representative of the Japanese school in Germany, of course, insisted in having to have moss everywhere.
I do believe that in Japan it is a must and I do believe that even not in exhibits they have proper moss. But I absolutely do not agree that this has much to do with us. With me most European leading artiss do not believe that this is a Japanese game anymore. They will have to get used that the rest of the world is NOT using moss as they do. They will have to get used to the fact that many do not care whether something is a 'tradition'. If there are no good artistic or horticultural reasons given, then this tradition is discarded.
The times are over when Japanese gardeners could dictate what we had to do in art and what our taste had to be. We have the right to make up our own mind. And there is no such thing as a 'No No' just because is not somebody else's tradition. In art that's a good point to start with. Meaning to challenge tradition.
We do not have Buddhist house altars that must not get dirty. In Germany in general anything traditional has a questionmark immediately. So by and large we are not honroing our own traditon much. Why in the world should we honor another nation's tradition.
If bonsai is an art form than there will be artists who think it is their duty to overcome tradition and build a new one. That's what makes it an art form. I do understand that this is scary for the powers tio be.
Almost never is the soil of my trees that I exhibit covered fully with moss. This is for artistic reasons. Because I like it better so. If a judge would say that there HAS to be moss I would conclude that it's the wrong judge who is not able to see bonsai as art form. If the judge says 'I don't like it if there is no moss' then that's better. But the judge should be aware whether he dislikes it for aesthetic reaons or because it is tradition.
Bonsai is the most backward looking art form that I know of. There is constant pressure to keep it a craft and not let it become an art form. This pressure is understandable. If it were truly an art form then the carpet would be pulled out under all the fundementalist's feet. But fundamentalists in bonsai are a dying species. And the carpet will be pulled anyway, that's for sure.

Walter


Last edited by Walter Pall on Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:23 am 
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Thanks Walter - maybe I can meet the gentleman when I visit the Ginko later in the year to learn more. I came across some old Japanese architecture magazines recently and am finding out some very interesting things about Japanese art and the West. I would like to continue collecting data on this to make up my own mind.
As for moss, the use of it certainly is a mater of taste. To my eye, showing exposed soil on the surface of a bonsai in an exhibition has two problems. First the coarse soil used in bonsai has fairly large particles. These large particles detract from the illusion one is trying to create of real tree. If you were to scale up the tree and the soil it would appear the bonsai is growing in boulders. This might be an artistic goal but to me looks lousy - and does not represent good art. Moss on the other hand has very fine texture and can simulate the grass of an under story in the woods. So in this case, even though it is traditional, it looks good and contributes to an emotive response.
Second, the soil usually is monochromatic - boring and not very artistic and artificial looking. Again it detracts from the emotive image of a tree.
From a pragmatic point of view, moss helps keep the soil in a pot when watering the tree. This is important to the health of the tree and keeping the nebari at the right level.

Frankly, just because everyone else is doing it in Germany doesn't mean a hoot to me. Lots of people do things that I would never do - I follow my own sensibilities and artistic sense that comes from observing and thinking about things on my own. In some cases I readily endorse and adopt tradition and in some cases I don't. Usually though my decisions are based on a logical foundation and not to be different or to follow the herd.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:26 am 
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Rob,
fine, that makes sense.
How about if someone came up with a top soil that was very fine and the color was quite pleasing?
Walter


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:58 am 
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Walter Pall wrote:
Rob,
fine, that makes sense.
How about if someone came up with a top soil that was very fine and the color was quite pleasing?
Walter

Evening Walter that was quick. Yes it might work - could be risky especailly for a tree that needs well draining soil as the fine stuff could clog the lower levels of soil.


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