Before I bring my opinion on, I will like to express my gratitude to this new forum, and its members, which seems to seriously seek a high level of bonsai art discussions.
Back to the point. I agree with Rob. I too find the hollows in the trunk disturbing to my vision of a natural tree, which I find is one of the finest qualities in a bonsai.
Naturalness is difficult to achieve, and in this case I find the tree far from natural. Too much is distracting my mind from seeing a natural appearance of the tree.
A good phrase in bonsai is to bring peace, harmony, beauty and simplicity into the image of the tree. In this bonsai I find some, or maybe all of this is violated. Instead of peace and harmony I find a disturbing picture.
The beauty is partly (or widely) a matter of taste, but I don?t see the beauty in this bonsai, which I normally seeks in trees represented in this specimen. Because of the artificial approach of the tree, with the much too arranged (it seems so) face that is purposed in the trunk by the hollows. And the simplicity is violated by the overall complex picture, where it also is difficult to find a resting point for the eye.
At the same time I am disturbed by the double trunk, that leads my eye trough the hole rather than finding peace and balance at a more central and balanced point. When the eye find a natural and well balanced spot to focus on immediately, it is easier to start the search for details afterwards, and find back to the main point. This is an important point, to achieve calmness and peace in a bonsai.
So what to do, if I had the choice. First of all a slight change of the planting position towards the left could make the low placed hole (at the low part of the double trunk) seem narrower, and at the same time soil and moss can cover the rest, by lifting soil up to the mid part. This might also hide the left hollow in the trunk, and these hollows can be crafted so they look more natural. Changing the planting angle a little might help too.
Also the branches need attention, and in my opinion they must be shortened and brought a little more to order. The branch structure works against the peace and harmony that I personally feel is an important part of a bonsai. This doesn?t means that bonsai can?t be dramatic or powerful, but they visually need to be in balance and poses harmony.
Another point I personally seeks to develop in my bonsais are some of the essence of the Japanese phrases Wabi and Sabi.
Wabi-sabi is very Japanese in spirit, but can for some part be adapted by us who lives in the west.
The Japanese words wabi and sabi are related to the tea ceremony, which was developed by Sen-no Rikyu more than 400 years ago.
Allthough that wabi-sabi in Japan are keywords related to the bonsai art, it is in my opinion not fore filling all the aspects from my point of view, but is a part of the expression.
Because bonsai is also a poem or a poetry. A bonsai is an aesthetic expression, which tells a story and evokes emotions. This is related to the human behind the tree, or the people who get influenced by watching the bonsai, because all art relates to a human expression. In bonsai though, this expression must be closely related to nature.
This must be carried out with some dignity and humbleness, and this is not the case when the human expression, as with the case tree discussed here, overrides the naturalness and wabi-sabi.
The term wabi-sabi suggests qualities like impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. In these principles are some underlying and diametrically opposed values to the Western counterparts, whit values deeply rooted in the Hellenic worldview, which values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection. I think though, it is possible to find a way to appreciate wabi-sabi, and express this in bonsai.
Wabi-sabi is also intuitive appreciation of transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. The understated beauty exists in a modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things. This beauty is what I personally appreciate in the Japanese bonsais, and I try to implement the spirit in my western approach to bonsai.