Lots of good stuff to read, here!
I should like to have a few nuances added, though. The first concerns these statements by Charles Bevan:
If a person who grows bonsai does not consider bonsai to be an
art, they will not be creating bad art; they will be creating a decoration.
......one must wonder, if a back-yard bonsaiist refuses to admit that they are creating art, can their trees truly be called art? If there is no attempt to add artistic value into their trees, then it cannot be called art.
I know two people who do not consider bonsai to be an art, but rather the product of artisan work. Yet both produce very beautiful bonsai, that far exceed the standard of decoration. The label of "art" or "artist" just does not sit easy with them. It happens.
The next lines are by Andy Rutledge:
Growing a tree, even a magnificent one, in a pot is gardening. Applying technique to that tree is craft. It is in the presentation of the tree, the pot, the stand, the setting and the compainion(s) that bonsai becomes art.
Artistry and artistic principles are necessary in each step, in each component, but the fullness of bonsai art is in display. The display has to be an artistic display, else it's just so much "stuff."
I think that that is putting things too strongly, Andy. Only a few days ago, at a club workshop, one of the most accomplished members arrived with a spruce in a black plastic nursery pot. That tree had a beautiful trunk line and was styled to perfection. The owner had worked on it for 7 years, and he told us that it was due to be bonsai-potted next Spring. There was no doubt in anyone's mind, that day, that here was one of the best works of bonsai art they had seen in a while.
Of course, there is no doubt that when that tree is displayed the way it ultimately has to be, it will look even better. But right now, in its plastic pot, it is a work of art.
Too often, the bonsai pot and the stand become a crutch for those who exhibit mediocre trees.....
But no doubt you'll consider that beside the point.