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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 1:08 pm 
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Great bonsai? A resounding YES! Avant-garde bonsai? I think not.
Mike


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 1:48 pm 
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I agree with Chris and Mike, I don't really see those trees mentioned as avant-garde. Regarding Boon's tree, I can easily imagine such a tree as part of a Chinese penjing arrangement

It's hard to imagine any form of bonsai as something that hasn't been done before in the history of bonsai.

When I think avant garde, I think about using bonsai in an entirely different context, such as combining bonsai with ceramic sculpture, or using very unconventional pots, something that doesn't fit in the normal definition of bonsai.

Another scenario could be if an artist consistently follows a certain pattern in his design, a pattern that may have only accidentally been used before, but not as a conscious and deliberate choice. Such a very unique style could be called avant-garde, IF it contains a new interpretation of bonsai. Of course this term could be applied only if the work is artistically successful.

Just because I start creating trees where every single branch has the shape of a corkscrew, and I keep creating different trees with corkscrew branches, will not make it avant-garde, unless those trees achieve some kind of artistic success.

So, the emphasis is on innovation, which is a very rare occurrence in bonsai.

P.S.: Now that I think of it, a bonsai designed to look natural and artistic from all sides could be called avant-garde. That's because it is flies completely against the basic premise, which is that bonsai can only have one front. Of course, in order for the artist to be recognized as avant garde, he would have to consistenly create these 360 degree trees, and not just one by accident.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:12 pm 
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Attila,
With all due respect, I think the 360 degree bonsai "controversy" has about as much merit as "avant-garde bonsai." What it boils down to is simply a reframing of good bonsai design. All great trees have depth and interest, and a lack of major flaws from all angles. That does not mean they do not have a preferred front. Witness Boon's tree again. My favorite way to examine this tree is from underneath, to see the solutions to wiring possibilities and challenges. But the tree is well-formed and beautiful from all around. Does that mean it should be shown from the right side? One would lose a lot of the fantastic movement of the trunk. Same from the left. And same from numerous angles the artist rejected, all for good reason.

But this tree was designed with the whole in mind, as are all great bonsai. It's a very poor tree, indeed, that lacks back branches trained with as much care as front branches.

In the same way, trees trained with the tree in mind, will be "naturalistic," or "classical," or "cookie-cutter," or "Bonsai by Numbers" (with thanks to Howard Smith), or "avant-garde," etc., etc., etc.
I don't see the controversy.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 4:49 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
What it boils down to is simply a reframing of good bonsai design. All great trees have depth and interest, and a lack of major flaws from all angles. That does not mean they do not have a preferred front.


Chris,
I agree with you that good trees have no major flaws from any side, and they must have depth and be interesting from many angles.

My point was not about the merits of traditional bonsai or any other bonsai.
What I was trying to say is that I consider avant-garde bonsai something that may have a fundamentally different premise than traditional bonsai.
So, I used as an example, a bonsai creation that has no front in mind. This would use a very different premise, which has ramifications through the whole design process.

With traditional bonsai, one can tell which one is the front, wich one is the side, and which one is the back view. No matter now well executed, we can tell which view we are looking at.

An example of avant-garde bonsai would be one designed so that you cannot tell which one is the front, side, or back. The viewer would always have a preferred angle, but this would be the viewer's choice and the artist would not prompt him in any way towards it.

I think this is worth emphasizing: the preferred front is the viewer's choice, without any prompting from the artist's part.

In traditional bonsai this is not possible: the viewer has no choice. The artist "tells us", using special techniques, which is his preferred view, and we either take it or leave it.

Whether or not this approach is feasible, possible, practical, or lives up to the quality of traditional bonsai, is a different subject, and I didn't intend to discuss within the current topic. I was just using this as an example of how bonsai can be conceived from a different perspective.

But I agree that your point is a valid and tested one, just as I agree that we should experiment with new perspectives, without the fear of failure. Failure is a useful part of experimenting.

And I think this is the message of this article about avant-garde bonsai: experiment without fear, something good may come out of it. Sometimes, in order to come up with something new, you have to throw out everything you learned before, and go with your instincts. People will always tell you what you can and cannot do, but you have to ignore them once in a while.
Does this approach guarantee that you will come up with something useful? Absolutely not. But, at least, it gives you a chance.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:08 pm 
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By the way, regarding the end of my last post, the late John Naka once said something to this effect:
First, you learn how to create bonsai. You learn every rule, every detail.
The second phase is to try to forget everything that you've learned, and follow your heart.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:12 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
By the way, regarding the end of my last post, the late John Naka once said something to this effect:
First, you learn how to create bonsai. You learn every rule, every detail.
The second phase is to try to forget everything that you've learned, and follow your heart.

I believe that is the path to follow.
Mike


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:48 pm 
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"In relation to art, it is used to describe a movement, artist, or group of artists which produces work which is considered to be breaking away from tradition and which steers art in a new direction." - http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/art/overview.php
I would certainly say that naturalistic design of bonsai and the creation of bonsai that have multiple visually pleasing fronts is breaking away from tradition and is steering the art in a new direction. By every definition, Walter's creations are avant-garde.

Will


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2007 7:58 pm 
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I'm sure that there are many of us who aren't at all sure when a bonsai crosses the line and becomes avant-garde.
Maybe a gallery of bonsai that are considered to be avant-garde would have educational value.
Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Avant-garde Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:32 pm 
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This is a good idea mike and one we are currently working on.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:01 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
"When I think avant garde, I think about using bonsai in an entirely different context, such as combining bonsai with ceramic sculpture, or using very unconventional pots, something that doesn't fit in the normal definition of bonsai."

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Thinking about unconventional pots led me to the next step which would be an unconventional stand, or display table. I'm working on one now. It won't be radical, just different, and I hope will draw attention to the tree, not away from it. I'll post an image later.

Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Avant-garde Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:31 pm 
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You might enjoy this blast from the past... http://checkvendor.ilevel.com/Compan...ations/Exhibit


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 Post subject: Re: Avant-garde Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:02 am 
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I've been working on this California Juniper for several years with the idea of creating an avant-garde bonsai.
I very recently received this Dale Cochoy pot especially made for this tree.
I would like to think that I've now crossed the line from the conventional to the avant-garde.
Time will tell.


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