This is an interesting article. I have not commented before now, as I have been trying to find out where my own 'line' would be drawn in all this. At one extreme there is the anything goes mentality which would say that as long as it fools the viewer into thinking that it is real, it does not matter; at the other would be the catalogue of events and manipulations for the public to see the 'how.' I can't live with either of these extremes.
I do not want to know the how, when I see great trees in exhibitions - I am begging to be fooled - I want the illusion that creates the art. I will stand many feet away from the exhibits to absorb the display. Only when I am satisfied, will I be forced up close in my desire to learn for my own trees. There I can see where someone has used shoe-polish on a juniper trunk, or used various shades of ink in lime-sulphur to create depth in the deadwood. Up close, some of these tricks seem very artificial and the illusion is lost for a time for me.
In the end Mark summed up my feelings for me:
Mark Rockwell wrote:
I would tend to draw the line at adding things that the tree couldn't have in a wild state. That would mean bark or fruit from another species, plastic foliage or fruit or bark, or whatever. This is a purely hypothetical "pointy-headed" ;-) issue, however, as such things that tend to be most "egregious" at crossing some arbitrary line don't make for an effective bonsai image. The so-called "line" in other words becomes self evident when the image doesn't work.
Will, I think that your piece is very valid to us all. Bonsai is about the image and feeling of a tree in nature; of a time, a place, a memory, an emotion that communicates with us. If we go too far down the road of anything goes, because this is art, then bonsai loses its soul, just as contemporary ikebana has done. This could be a real danger - one only needs to look at the 'bonsai' planted in red glass beads and the displays of rusty iron and weeds that manage to sneak into bonsai shows. This sort of thing is not many degrees of abstraction away from plastic leaves and metal trunks.
All the best,