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artofbonsai.org • View topic - How Bonsai Taste Evolves
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:33 am 
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That's a great idea and one which can be accomplished to a certain point.

In art, there are many styles of painting, Abstract, Cubism, Impressionism, Surrealism, and so on... some paintings fall easily into these classifications, but many also can not be so easily pegged down and bleed across these lines.


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:27 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:18 pm 
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Interesting thread.
In my experience, the higher up the ladder of artistic achievement an artist climbs (or is placed by his/her audience) the less likely is that artist to judge the work of his/her peers. Comment, sure. Suggest possible modifications also. But not to judge in terms of 'good or bad'. Why is this? Possibly because the more accomplished an artist becomes the more aware of the irrelevance of such absolute terms.

Pattern recognition in assessing the merit of a bonsai is probably more common in the earlier stages of bonsai artistic development of an individual and becomes less so as that individual becomes more accomplished. The more compliance with preordained patterns (adherence to the "rules") is a dominant factor in assessing the merit of any art, the less importance is given to creativity and what I call the "success" of a piece. Art is, after all, basically a means of communication that goes beyond simple narrative imagery. Good or bad cannot be applied to communication in this context, but successful or unsuccessful can.

Two examples:

Longer ago than I care to reveal, my daughter's eight year-old schoolfriend came to play. She had never been to the house before. She galloped down the steps from the terrace and stopped dead as she passed my display benches. "Oh!", she shrieked, "little trees!". Here, pattern recognition played a major role: she was not judging the trees as works of art or as adherants to rules, but her reaction demonstrated that my trees, as works of art (communication) were ultimately successful. This was, and still is, one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had in my bonsai career: the instant recognition by a naive mind of the purpose of my work.

The second example occurred in the late nineties, when Salvatore Liporace paid one of his annual August visits to my garden. I showed him a tree I had recently styled - a very unconventional scots pine with three trunks, each of a different style. He laughed and said he thought the tree was schizophrenic - it couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to be. "One trunk, one tree" he said - for him the tree had to follow one of the accepted patterns to be of any merit. The message I was trying to communicate was lost on him. Two years later, that tree won second prize in the JAL/NBA World Competition, with the comment from the judges that its branches "followed the spirit of Japanese bonsai". This comment made of a tree that followed no rules, no patterns, but succeeded in communicating, heart to heart, soul to soul, with a group of people who were arguably the most rigid proponents of adherance to the rules.

Even the most un-tree-like bonsai images, such as highly stylized driftwood junipers, that follow no natural or non-bonsai patterns, can still be validly judged by non-bonsai people on their success in communicating something of what was in the artist's soul when the work was created. A bus driver, accountant, soldier or horse jockey with no prior contact with bonsai, can judge the artistic success of such a bonsai, albeit probably subconsciously. They can receive the message communicated by the artist, and the stronger and more empathetic this message is communicated, the more successful the artist's work. And this success is amplified when the bus driver, accountant, soldier and jockey all agree....

... which is something the bonsai cogniscienti seldom seem to do.


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:55 pm 
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I do not think when Walter writes about pattern recognition that he necessarily meant to limit the patterns involved to the "rules". Did not the little girl that Colin tells us about delight so in the "little trees" because she recognized the pattern of "big trees" so marvelously echoed in miniature. I think that is one reason Colin's work is so extraordinary - because he does that so well. On the other hand, Kimura's work does not usually look like any full-sized trees I have ever seen, but it still grabs the soul somehow. What is it that is being communicated? Is there a name for that style?

Colin, I would love to see a picture of that triple trunk tree. Is that possible?


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:16 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:41 pm 
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Thank you for the picture Colin. Awesome tree.

Ana Veler made an interesting observation earlier. More than other art forms, people with an on-going interest in bonsai are involved in creating their own pieces. I think the joy they get from doing bonsai comes more from the process than from appreciation of the end result. It is well known in psychology that people who are dedicated to something tend to be internally motivated.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that any of us hobbyists are not thrilled by the good opinion of experts, and do not channel our efforts accordingly, but the stage of our own creative efforts may play a role in our ability to appreciate the work of others. If your Scots Pine had been mine a few years ago I surely would have cut the lower trunks off. Yet if the little girl saw that tree she would have been just as blown away as the Japanese judges were. It is true art but I do not believe I would have been open to it a few years ago.


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:11 pm 
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Of course, Ana was correct: I can think of no other art form wherein artists willingly build a collection of their own work. Reluctantly, perhaps, when pieces do not sell, but not by choice.

The young girl, of course, had no knowledge of bonsai or its conventions. Perhaps three years ago you were more concerned with, or more conscious of the conventions of bonsai design and such an unconventional offering as mine would not have fitted your recognized pattern.

As an aside: most people comment one way or another on the trunks - their lines, relationships, etc. However, the true essence of this design is the crescent-shaped negative space on the left, embraced by the terminal foliage pads. Perhaps it would make an interesting design exercise to ask students to draw a tree, any tree of any configuration, that includes this negative area as part of the total design.


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:30 am 
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Wow – the negative space is what unifies the composition isn’t it. That along with the attention paid to the details of the foliage pads make it work when the “rules” say it shouldn’t.

I have never been very successful designing a tree with pencil and paper but I have always started with a tree I have, not a general concept. I have looked at removing or adding branches using Photoshop. That can be an interesting exercise.


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:39 pm 
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Last edited by Ana Veler on Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:50 pm 
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Returning to the original article, and the theme of evolving taste, the bit below was written in a very different context, but nonetheless:

"To works, [...] not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientific, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem."

I meant to to drop this in sooner, but kept missing the citation, hiding in plain sight! []

Considering that the works of art considered here depend on such 'continuance of esteem' quite physically, I wonder how well Johnson's pessimistic verdict fits...


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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:50 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 7:11 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:38 am 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:17 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How Bonsai Taste Evolves
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:45 pm 
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