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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:56 am 
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Howard Smith wrote:
The apex must slightly lean toward the front to provide that illusion of towering height, not be some monotonous dome."

This is another one-sided view of what bonsai is about.
The effect of towering height can be achieved by creating the exaggerated taper that many great bonsai display (namely, the closer you stand to a towering tree, the more exaggerated the taper of the trunk becomes from your perspective).

In addition, not every bonsai is about towering height. For example, many of Kimura's shimpaku creations are about the spectacular, almost surrealistic shapes and forms of deadwood and artistic arrangement of the foliage around it. These trees aren't trying to make the impression of a towering tree.

Creating the contorted, weather-beaten, struggling conifer bonsai living close to the tree-line are not about a towering tree either. They represent stunted trees, struggling for survival.

Also, the bending forward techique lends itself easily to conifers, but it gets lost when applied to an informal-broom deciduous tree. How are you going to bend forward the whole canopy of a giant spreading oak tree with a round top? Or a flat-top acacia from the Serenghetti? My experience shows that these are expamples when the bending forward needs to be avoided.
As you see, automatically applying traditional bonsai techniques to EVERY tree does little to enhance their artistic effect. Applying them selectively, that's a much better approach.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:18 pm 
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I am not opposed to anybody trying the sculptural approach of potted trees; I am just not interested in doing so and calling it bonsai. To me it would be closer to topiary. As defined by www.dictionary.com, a topiary is: "of or characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals." But instead of sculpting a dragon, or a Disney character you are sculpting trees. I enjoy looking at a well done topiary, but I would not get into creating one nor take the time to go to a topiary show. Traditional bonsai utilizes centuries of learned techniques to commit to a single front and design all elements to bring out the best of this single front. Doing otherwise sacrifices this one front's potential greatness.

Again, the fact that more one front is chosen by lesser experienced bonsai enthusaists does not prove that there are ten best fronts. All opinions do not have equal merit, like it or not. A lot of beginners hate deadwood - I'm not going to create trees old junipers for them without jin. Beginners also love flowers - beginners are attracted to sucky bonsi if they are covered with flowers, even if they are setting right next to a world class conifer. Does this mean we should have a bunch of sucky trees with flowers to make the general population happier? It would you know.
As experience in bonsai grows you will find that the possible fronts diminish. I have observed this over the past going on five years working with Boon. We often perform the exercise of finding the front. As time goes by, the 'inter-rater reliability' increases and often only two fronts at most are chosen out of a group of eight or so. Have these bonsai people been fooled by a myth and closed their minds to other options? Maybe, but they are sure producing more and more beautiful trees than they used to before learning this myth.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:25 pm 
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Howard Smith wrote:
I am not opposed to anybody trying the sculptural approach of potted trees; I am just not interested in doing so and calling it bonsai. To me it would be closer to topiary. As defined by www.dictionary.com, a topiary is: "of or characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals."

Howard,
How do you define Bonsai? I personally define bonsai as, "A living, artistically created, idealized vision of a tree, cultivated in a container." As I explained here http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=195
Howard Smith wrote:
Again, the fact that more one front is chosen by lesser experienced bonsai enthusaists does not prove that there are ten best fronts. All opinions do not have equal merit, like it or not.

Howard, even experienced bonsaists can not agree on the front. Have you offered your choice in the study mentioned in this article? I'll guarantee you that some experienced bonsaists will choose a different front than you do...what does this say then?
Howard Smith wrote:
Have these bonsai people been fooled by a myth and closed their minds to other options? Maybe, but they are sure producing more and more beautiful trees than they used to before learning this myth.

And how do explain those artists like Walter Pall who consistently create bonsai with many visually pleasing fronts? Are they not also producing beautiful, world class trees?

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:48 pm 
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Howard Smith wrote:
To me it would be closer to topiary. As defined by www.dictionary.com, a topiary is: "of or characterized by the clipping or trimming of live shrubs or trees into decorative shapes, as of animals." But instead of sculpting a dragon, or a Disney character you are sculpting trees.

Topiary is about the external shape. It has no concern to branch structure and naturalness. And, I've never seen a topiary trying to look like a natural-looking tree. If there was such a thing, I would probably change my low opinion on topiary.

"Sculpted trees" could carry just as much power as traditional bonsai.
If I may use an analogy here: Michelangelo's David. Or any of Rodin's realistic-looking statues. Would you say that a painting that represents the live model on which David was made would have been more powerful artistically than the statue itself. If I understand it right, what you are saying is that a two-dimensional representation of a subject (such as drawing, painting, or bonsai for that matter) is somehow more superior than a sculpture of the same subject. To me, this statement doesn't make much sense. It's rather sounds like a personal preference (which, of course, is fine with me). But then, the fact that it is a personal preference should have been voiced when expressing one's opinion.

The irony of this debate, of course, is that although these concepts seem so radically opposed to traditional bonsai, when looking at a picture of a traditional bonsai versus the multiple view bonsai, one couldn't tell the difference which one is which. These concepts work in the back-stage, but shouldnt' be apparent to the viewer. The only time one would note a difference is when one would start to walk around the tree..


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:11 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
The irony of this debate, of course, is that although these concepts seem so radically opposed to traditional bonsai, when looking at a picture of a traditional bonsai versus the multiple view bonsai, one couldn't tell the difference which one is which. These concepts work in the back-stage, but shouldn't' be apparent to the viewer. The only time one would note a difference is when one would start to walk around the tree..

Or view it from a different angle than intended. Excellent point Attila.

Will


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 7:48 pm 
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Hi Will and Attila,
Regarding Walter Pahl, I agree his trees are beautiful and look good from several sides, but he still commits to a front that he shows in shows like the Ginkgo. I would like to have his feedback (if you would be so kind Walter) if he may have done anything in the styling at all that would have forced him to base it with a single front in mind.

I agree with Will's definition of a bonsai. Maybe I am simple minded, or have limited recall ability, but when I have a vision of a tree in my head, it is an image, a mental snapshot. I do not think in motion picture format. Maybe you have the ability to and perhaps your vision is in 360 degrees. In any case, what attracts me to bonsai is this idealized image; and it is conjured up better for me when an artist commits to a front and brings out its beauty to its fullest potential.

Will you are right that some trees have two or more potential fronts. My whole contention is that I believe that an artist needs to commit to one of these fronts to bring out their idealized tree image to its greatest potential. So again, you are talking about potential fronts; I am talking about a chosen front.

Attila, regarding a 2D subject being more powerful than a sculpture, this is not related to what I was saying. I am saying bonsai is a 3D medium used to represent a mostly 2D image, or how about a 2.5D image. And I believe this 2.5D image is more powerful than a 3D compromise.

Attila said: "The irony of this debate, of course, is that although these concepts seem so radically opposed to traditional bonsai, when looking at a picture of a traditional bonsai versus the multiple view bonsai, one couldn't tell the difference which one is which. These concepts work in the back-stage, but shouldnt' be apparent to the viewer. The only time one would note a difference is when one would start to walk around the tree.."
My whole point is that you can tell the difference without walking around the tree. The multiple view bonsai, if compared to a classical, professionally designed tree, will likely have noticable problems in its design and branch structure.

I am not opposed to the existence of multiple view potted trees, but they are not quite bonsai. Maybe Bonsiaries, or how about Bonsarounds?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 3:01 pm 
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I have an appreciation for sculpture, but I have never attempted it. I do, however, regularly practice bonsai styling. I've seen many sculptures that are moving from one angle, sometimes various angles, and terrible from others. It doesn't make it a bad sculpture, it just means there is an obvious angle it is meant to be appreciated from.

Bonsai will always have a front, preferred view, in my opinion. Different views will also be pleasing, but not as good. I think John Naka gave us some foresight on this subject. He said that when you have difficulty finding a front on a bonsai, find the back, then turn in 180*. There's your front. I know others said the same thing, but he was the first I knew had said it (Mas Imazumi said it to me personally in 1999 or so).

I would be confident to say that most - not all - skilled bonsaists USUALLY find a front on a bonsai ("finished", not raw material) that doesn't vary more than 20* between them. Not always, but most of the time. That convinces me that a front is still an integral part of any properly styled bonsai. Until i find a better way, that is how I will do it.
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 7:15 pm 
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I think it's time to remove the term "front" from the bonsai lexicon. "Optimum viewing angle" may be a more sensible and logical description. If what we call "front" is at zero degrees, then the "optimum viewing angle would encompass about 30 degrees, 15 to the right and 15 to the left.
When we photograph a bonsai, we naturally set the camera at zero degrees. Maybe we need a site on this forum where we submit 3 photos. One at zero, one at 15 degrees right and one at 15 degrees left.
Or maybe this is just another silly idea.
Mike


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 9:28 am 
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Mike Page wrote:
I think it's time to remove the term "front" from the bonsai lexicon. "Optimum viewing angle" may be a more sensible and logical description. If what we call "front" is at zero degrees, then the "optimum viewing angle would encompass about 30 degrees, 15 to the right and 15 to the left.
When we photograph a bonsai, we naturally set the camera at zero degrees. Maybe we need a site on this forum where we submit 3 photos. One at zero, one at 15 degrees right and one at 15 degrees left.
Or maybe this is just another silly idea.
Mike

Mike,
I think this idea has great merit. A point of reference, if you will.
John


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:21 am 
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John Dixon wrote:
Bonsai will always have a front, preferred view, in my opinion. Different views will also be pleasing, but not as good. I think John Naka gave us some foresight on this subject. He said that when you have difficulty finding a front on a bonsai, find the back, then turn in 180*. There's your front. I know others said the same thing, but he was the first I knew had said it (Mas Imazumi said it to me personally in 1999 or so).


I hate to keep going back to this point, but it has never been addressed.
John, you say a bonsai will always have a front, I agree but, I say a bonsai will always have multiple fronts, regardless of it we admit it or not, they are there, people see them, only some artists choose to live in denial.

As I explained in the article, we can not control (except in photographs) the viewing angle a person views a bonsai at, to think so is an exercise in futility. That perfectly groomed front you worked for years to perfect, may not be seen at all. Face it, at the typical bonsai show, bonsai are displayed to low for the viewing angle we have been taught to cultivate. Besides, no one, and I mean no one stands directly in front of a tree and squats, sees on view only, and then walks away.
The emperor is naked.

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 11:54 am 
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Mike Page wrote:
"Optimum viewing angle" may be a more sensible and logical description. If what we call "front" is at zero degrees, then the "optimum viewing angle would encompass about 30 degrees, 15 to the right and 15 to the left.

I like the "preferred side" description, which is similar to "optimal viewing angle".
Since not every pot would be a round one, the "preferred side" would be the one chosen to be aligned with the front of the pot.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 1:30 pm 
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Container front?
From the article..
"Container Front: Due to the shape or nature of the container a front is chosen that compliments the shape of the container. The artist then places their personal Visual Front in a manner that coincides with the Container Front. "


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 2:04 am 
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Will Heath wrote:
Besides, no one, and I mean no one stands directly in front of a tree and squats, sees on view only, and then walks away.
Will

Will,
This is precisely what I do at a bonsai show. As does my wife and many others that are into bonsai. This is also what I and my wife (Sylvia) observed at Kokufu - multitudes walking to a tree, stopping directly at the front, squatting or bowing, admiring and grunting an admiration sound, then getting up and repeating the process at the next tree.

It was not a slow motion walk by, nobody tried to see the side or the back unless they were trying to follow a live vein on a juniper or trying to see the origin of a branch or maybe studying the styling techniques used. Bottom line, the front is what people all over the world travelled to see at Kokufu. Not the naked Emperor.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 2:11 am 
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Will Heath wrote:
"Container Front: Due to the shape or nature of the container a front is chosen that compliments the shape of the container. The artist then places their personal Visual Front in a manner that coincides with the Container Front. "

This sounds so detached from the bonsai! Eliminating the front of a bonsai makes it a depersonified cylinder.
Before talking to someone, I first locate their front side and then begin speaking. This is much more interactive and personable. I think the same applies to a bonsai.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:54 am 
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Howard Smith wrote:
This sounds so detached from the bonsai! Eliminating the front of a bonsai makes it a depersonified cylinder.

Howard,
That's not what we are saying. You are misunderstanding it. I personally believe that every tree has one or in some cases a few views that carry the most interest and beauty. This is the view that should be kept in mind when a tree is potted and placed for viewing. And this is what we can call front.

In addition to this view, the tree can be designed so that one can enjoy it by walking around it. So the tree will satisfy your requirement for a front, but also offers many other interesting views from different sides.
As you see, your concept of the front is not eliminated. Instead, more views are added to the tree that normally would be ignored.

A lot of people are saying that this is not possible: the common argument is that if we try to make the tree enjoyable from other sides, in addition to the "front", this will inevitably ruin the front view, or at least diminish it. I say that it is possible to achieve this. It just takes more skill and some good material to work with.

I also think that the tree should be exhibited at the appropriate height. 2D or 3D, a bonsai will be much less enjoyable if viewed from above, there is no excuse for such a bad practice when exhibiting it.


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