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 Post subject: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:52 pm 
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This thread is for discussing Walter Pall's article "Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai"
http://artofbonsai.org/feature_articles/thoughts.php


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:11 am 
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"The viewer is supposed to concentrate on the visible and what he feels, not with the technique that the artist has used."

Here lays a common fallacy of the forums, to ignore the image presented and dissect the techniques used to create it. Too often bonsaists focus on the parts, so much so that they miss the image presented, the bonsai, which is, after all, the sum of the parts.
Incredible article Walter!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:13 pm 
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Hats off to Walter......for the fantastic article !!!

A 'must read' for all bonsai enthusiasts. I am very much impressed with Walter's style of writing by discussing a very vital issue (encountered in all bonsai communities worldwide, I guess) with such simplicity, and yet so meaningful and subtle in approach, that it would make anyone think twice on the 'art of bonsai appreciation.'

Will, you have rightly pointed out that so much focus is often given on the techniques/parts (during bonsai shows and exhibits) rather than the totality of the bonsai and the feeling it evokes, that the essence of a great bonsai is often overlooked or missed. This practice of dissecting a bonsai, solely on technicalities ignoring the 'soul' is common to majority of the bonsai critics in different parts of the world, and is the real hinderence in developing one's creativity and advancement in creating bonsai. No wonder, you get to see too many 'technical' bonsai lacking depth and soul. It is the remaining few who make the difference.

Shaukat


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 7:09 am 
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Instinctively most Bonsai enthusiasts reaction when looking at a Bonsai is "What is my value addition to this tree" or "How would I have dealt with this tree", or "Here is how to improvise this tree".

It is very rare that one would allow the tree to sink into one's senses and enjoy that feeling. Once that instinctive urge to Criticise goes, one can enjoy Bonsai better.

Walter : A very profound article indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and many of your other articles. In a highly prejudiced world of "Japan Centric Bonsai" your thoughts come as a breath of fresh air.. Hope the world catches on...


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:08 am 
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Ravi Kiran wrote:
.....In a highly prejudiced world of "Japan Centric Bonsai" your thoughts come as a breath of fresh air.. Hope the world catches on...


Ravi,

I fully agree with Walter's thoughts in the article but I don't know how you relate this article by mentioning 'Japan Centric Bonsai'.
What's wrong in being Japan-centric, if someone wants to? And how does this contradict the article? Do you mean to say that the Japanese do not take into consideration the elements, which Walter has highlighted?

Although one comes across trees of Japanese bonsai that look too 'technical' if I may use the term, but that cannot be reason enough to blame the Japanese bonsai as whole?

Whether you agree or not, tThe Japanese have showed us the way, which we cannot ignore. I personally find their sense of balance, the appropriate pot selection (whatever the style of tree) very impressive and inspiring. Even if you see their shohin arrangements with the accent plants, one can instantly feel the perfect balance they can reflect, in most of the cases.

The 'prejudice' lies in the individual mind of the observer and cannot be forced by someone whether it be Japanese, European or American bonsai. Each tree needs to be appreciated individually, and not based on region.

Shaukat


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 1:55 pm 
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Location: South San Francisco, CA
"No great artist sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist". Oscar Wilde

Katsumi Kinoshita is the guru of quercus agrifolia. He is an artist that understands how inner beauty translates to outer beauty.

I attended the GSBF convention where the oak in question was exhibited. It was, and I hope still is a controversial bonsai. They are the best because they inspire soul searching.

I photographed the exhibit and am posting the tree here. It was not respectfully presented, as an ancient bonsai should be. You viewers will need to sort out the tree from the distracting background.

Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 8:28 am 
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Shaukat Islam wrote:
What's wrong in being Japan-centric, if someone wants to? And how does this contradict the article? Do you mean to say that the Japanese do not take into consideration the elements, which Walter has highlighted?


Hi Shaukat,

It is a tough task to express oneself with a few words especially in a net forum like this. I will still try my best.

First and foremost - there is nothing wrong with "Japan Centric Bonsai". There is tremendous beauty and yes the Japanese have brought Bonsai to the rest of the world. I am grateful to them for that.

When I refer to "Japan Centric Bonsai" I mean that it offers a limited variety and not complete in itself. For example while I see beauty in the tree in this thread, a Japanese master would probably have a tough time appreciating the beauty in this tree. The world of miniature trees is far wider than the Japanese perspective or rather the world of Japanese Bonsai forms a small part of the larger world of Miniature trees which Walter aptly calls the naturalistic style.

Hope this puts my thoughts into perspectice

:)


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:28 pm 
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Ravi says: "The world of miniature trees is far wider than the Japanese perspective"

Words that should be etched in stone.

Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:08 am 
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A commendable article in terms of the subject-matter treated. However, the writing, grammar, and flow of arguments could be greatly improved with proper editing. I am assuming that English is not the author's monther tongue, so critism on this front is not call for, but I seriously think that a professional editor should have been asked to clear up the confusing language, considering the article was actually published somewhere.

I have read the article twice, and I still think that the messages are unclear and contradictory. I might be missing the point, and that the piece was actually meant to be cryptic, but I don't think the author intended it to be such. So let's just move on and give the author the benefit of a licentia poetica...

In general, I was unsure whether the author was actually in favour or against the "Japanese bonsai establishment (JBE)" mentality when it comes to judging what is and what is not a good bonsai. I believe, in general, the author was against the strict codes of the JBE, and if so, I find it rather offensive.

I find it peculiar that in the western bonsai literature, the enthusiasts appear obssessed with the question of whether to belong to the pro-JBE camp or those against the JBE. This obsession to classify, categorise and then put one-self into that box is rather common in the west, and most of the time, healpful for discussions. I do it all the time as it is the essence of the practice of science. This will however collapse horribly when it is used in art where most parameters involved cannot be quantified or measured. So rhetorics that ensued from a rational and "scientific" approach to "understand" art, such as bonsai, then becomes futile as most arguments cannot be substantiated in a convincing manner to the majority. I do not see many Japanese/Chinese bonsai artists being so pre-occupied with how the west is interpretating bonsai, and rarely if ever, do I see virulent articles against the western perspective on the art... Thus the countless attacks against those that actually practice what the JBE preaches is rather distasteful if you ask me.

Although the author seems hostile to the way of the JBE, the author's own perspective and ideals seem strangely interwined with those of JBEs'. The virtue of the visible vs the non-visible raised in the first half of the article can easily be encapsulated by the concept of "ma" (間) that I believe, champions the beauty of what constitutes the "space"/"realm" between those that can and cannot be defined by words or expression. This was similarly treated in Tao de ching of Lao Tze, I recommend those interested to read the first chapter of this great work. As we all know, many great Chinese bonsai masters were influenced by the philosophy of Tao. So I do not see how the author's ideals and ideas differ from those that were already practiced for many centuries in the East.

I also find the notion that "naturalistic" bonsai being a more "modern" bonsai style emanating from the west a peculiar concept. From my little understanding of the "naturalistic" style, I think a simple stroll to the local book store to read about the concept of "wabi-sabi" (侘・寂) would be helpful to make one realise that the concept behind this style is the very essence of many Japanese art-forms. The oak featured in the article may not have shocked all Japanese grand master, I think... Appreciating obvious flaws in any art piece is of no foreign concept to Japanese people!

So, before any further future writings attempting to create further divisions between East and West mentalities, please do more research as you may come to a conclusion that we are not that different after all.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:48 pm 
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I can’t help thinking that Li Zhenxiang has missed the point of Walter Pall's article. As I read it, it is an appeal against bonsai enthusiasts letting their intellectual understanding ruin their appreciation and enjoyment when viewing bonsai. I don't think he was attacking Japanese approaches to bonsai as such, but rather cautioning against letting rules and conventions supersede ones natural reaction to the beauty and majesty of a bonsai. I appreciated the article for that reason.

Maybe I am wrong? That would be for the author to say.

Also be careful of hypocrisy if you are going to criticise someone’s written English!
Quote:
I am assuming that English is not the author's monther tongue, so critism on this front is not call for


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:25 pm 
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I think that was part of my point, the article did not convey a clear and coherent message. Should an article that aims to educate be open for interpretation? The above differences of opinions expressed by the people above clearly showed that better clarity could help avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. As I said above, from my reading and understanding, that was what I believed the messages were. If I was wrong, then good, we are all in agreement. I have no problem in admitting that I was wrong. But was I?

Matt Williams wrote:
Also be careful of hypocrisy if you are going to criticise someone’s written English!
Quote:
I am assuming that English is not the author's monther tongue, so critism on this front is not call for

Thank you for pointing out my errors. English is obviously not my native tongue. But I always strive to minimise typos and grammar errors when replying on a "web-forum"...


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 12:36 am 
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A note:

This is an international forum and as such we encourage all to focus on the thoughts presented. Many of our members use English as a second language and although we do edit most of the articles presented here, some are posted as presented and some are edited only for glaring errors in order to leave the original flow and flavor intact.

We are always looking for good editors, anyone interested can contact me.



Will


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 Post subject: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:18 pm 
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The viewer is supposed to concentrate on the visible and what he feels, not with the technique that the artist has used."
I liked the article very much but it did get me thinking……..
Does anyone else have the concern that I see in that ……….we design the tree (Bonsai) for the photographic “image” rather than for the tree itself. What I mean is that..... while designing trees one doesn’t worry about the potential image rather; one concentrates on a pleasing design and the “in person look”,…the 3D visual image of the tree on the bench, at exhibition (the sum of its parts). This later point captures the essence of a great bonsai but when photographed somehow the image cannot capture its true beauty.
Is it possible to have a great looking tree without seeing it in a photographic image? This is one issue I see with on line contests.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:03 pm 
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Graham. I have found that photographing my trees can be helpful in detecting faults. The camera can be both a merciless master, and a valuable assistant.


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 Post subject: Re: Thoughts About Viewing Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:16 pm 
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Graham Hues wrote:
Does anyone else have the concern that I see in that ……….we design the tree (Bonsai) for the photographic “image” rather than for the tree itself. What I mean is that..... while designing trees one doesn’t worry about the potential image rather; one concentrates on a pleasing design and the “in person look”,…the 3D visual image of the tree on the bench, at exhibition (the sum of its parts). This later point captures the essence of a great bonsai but when photographed somehow the image cannot capture its true beauty.
Is it possible to have a great looking tree without seeing it in a photographic image? This is one issue I see with on line contests.


Graham,

this is a subject that is haunting me since many years, well, since decades. It is the norm that a bonsai looses tremendously if you compare a photograph with the reality. Well, sometimes it is the other way around. It is absolutely not easy to get the essence of a bonsai onto an image of it. The main reason is the loss of three-dimensionality.
One phenomenon is that trees which are styled according to the 'rules' often look good on a photograph. The reason is that they are made according to one single front, they are two-dimensional, and the branches have the famous layers where a bird can fly through. This looks good when photographed. In modern bonsai and also in naturalistic bonsai the layers with the bird are usually abandoned. The trees then have more depth and often spirit when you see them in nature. On a photograph they have a tendency too look untidy. This 'untidyness' is non-existent on the real tree.
So your conclusion is very important: be careful with judging trees on photographs. Especially do not compare a tree on a photograph with one that you see in person.
Which directly leads to another article 'Blind in one Eye'.


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