Hector Johnson wrote:
Will, the "best" side is the one that the artist selects, to present to the public, as the "front".
We, collectively, seem to be arguing that trees have a front, and you seem to be arguing that they shouldn't.
Can you please clarify the following points for me?
1. Is there a side from which a tree, irrespective of styling, looks most pleasing?
2. Is it still OK for the owner of the tree to show that side to the public, as the front?
3. Is it acceptable, even if the tree is near perfect from all angles, to
display it in that orientation, in your view.
I want to be sure I understand you properly.
The article is titled "The Myth of the Single Front" and the subject matter supports that statement. I am not arguing that a bonsai shouldn't have a front, I am arguing that a bonsai shouldn't have only one single front.
To answer your questions...
1) Is there a side from which a tree, irrespective of styling, looks most pleasing?
Yes, of course, however, as I have said numerous times, what I may consider most pleasing may not be what you would consider as most pleasing. I have shown that if presented with multiple pictures of the same bonsai, all at different angles, people will not all choose the same front, hence by choosing it for them, we cheat the ones who found another view "most pleasing" by turning it toward the back.
This all is only for the sake of argument though, since as I have shown in the article, there is only a very small percentage of people that will view the bonsai when it is displayed at the exact viewing angle we call the front. In short Hector, if they don't see the front, that sweet spot where the viewer is directly in front of the bonsai and at such a height where the back rim of the pot is barely showing, the front just does not exist.
In the typical show setup or display (see diagrams in the article) I show why this mythical front is never seen and why styling for this single front is an exercise in futility. This front serves the photograph, nothing else.
2) Is it still OK for the owner of the tree to show that side to the public, as the front?
Certainly, the owner can show their own bonsai however they please. However, let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the viewer sees only the front the artist presents, in fact, due to varying heights of displays and of the viewers, it is highly likely that the front the artist thinks they are displaying is never seen. (See diagrams in article.)
3) Is it acceptable, even if the tree is near perfect from all angles, to display it in that orientation, in your view.
Again, there is always going to be a side of the bonsai facing forward. Forward being defined as toward the viewing area, in a gallery setting or other areas where the bonsai can be walked around forward would be toward the viewers and naturally would mean a different direction to different viewers. And again, this does not mean the viewer will see the bonsai at the exact height and angle that we use in photos.
The point that is being missed here is that the photo front we see so often on the Internet is seldom seen by viewers in real life. Unless you put blinders on the viewers, make them stand on red footsteps directly in front of the bonsai, and raise or lower the display to customize its height for each viewer, this single front will seldom be seen.
Imagine five men, all of different heights standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a bonsai that is on a 36 inch bench. What do these men see?
Only one is directly in front of the bonsai.
None are at the height the bonsai was styled for.
Who is seeing this mythical single front it was styled for?
No one, no one at all.