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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 2:59 pm 
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="Morten Albek...
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.

Morten:
You have defined bonsai art to your tastes and explained what you like about your art. ...naturalness ...peace ...harmony... beauty ...
May I suggest that art's function is to communicate. It does not have to be harmonious, natural, peaceful, or even beautiful. To be successful, the artist must communicate a feeling to the observer. The composition can be humorous, joyful, scary, threatening, or any of the qualities that you care to communicate. Must bonsai art always be beautiful? Are there qualities other than beauty that may be communicated with bonsai? I certainly believe so.
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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.

So you would take away the elements that make this composition exude fear and threat and make it resemble a thousand other bonsai. Just deleting the "face" and "hollow," you would have an unremarkable tree. I doubt if this tree would warrant remembrance or make an impression:
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Another point I personally seeks to develop in my bonsais are some of the essence of the Japanese phrases Wabi and Sabi.

It's very good that you have defined a personal style based on wabi-sabi. Can you not recognize that there are artists that may transcend the wabi-sabi? - Must every bonsai that you value as art, have the wabi-sabi element?
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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....

I believe that we agree that bonsai art evokes (or provokes?) emotions. Would you deny the human expressions of fright, hate, humor, threat, (or name other high energy emotions) in your bonsai. Do you not feel that you are limiting your artistic freedom to express to include only "peace, harmony, beauty and simplicity in your bonsai?
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This beauty is what I personally appreciate in the Japanese bonsais, and I try to implement the spirit in my western approach to bonsai.

Can you not expand your limited definition and appreciate when an artist pushes the envelope and is so successful in communicating on such a basic level?
Respectfully exploring the limits,
-Candy Shirey


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 1:21 am 
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I also think there is now a swing back in the darker direction as we progress with bonsai in the West. "Naturalistic" bonsai has a heart of darkness, in my opinion, at least as far as it tries to stir deep primitive feelings in the viewer.

Mark, That's my kinda talk!


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 1:33 am 
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Candy,
Nice to speak with you again!
That is a great tree and extremely well presented. Congratulations.
If you study the tree against the classical blueprint, you'll find flaws. If you study it against conventional bonsai book and club demo wisdom, you'll also find flaws. But if you study it against what it is - a miniaturised and abstracted image of an impressive* tree in nature - it's extremely powerful and emotive. If that was the artist's intention, which it clearly was, then it is a worthy piece of bonsai art.

* Impressive? When you see a tree in the wild, close up or in the distance, and it hits you. It creates an emotional response so strong that you take it with you. The bonsai does not have to replicate the tree itself, but it's spirit and the emotional power.
Colin


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 2:27 am 
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"Naturalistic" bonsai has a heart of darkness, in my opinion, at least as far as it tries to stir deep primitive feelings in the viewer.

Geez! How terribly subjective!
Why does talk about art so often provoke dramatic descriptions?
Lisa


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 4:22 am 
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Lisa,
what's so wrong with this statement? I like it. It only shows one side of what I call naturalistic bonsai style, but this side is there.
Walter


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 6:18 am 
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Walter, would you agree with me, that there is no absolute in art?
Whatever you say about it is always going to be incomplete, perhaps right from one point of view and wrong from another, or anything approximating those values. I should very much like to keep that awareness alive, on this forum.

We all have our opinions, and the (much appreciated) opportunity to express them here. But they are only our opinions. Should we impose them on others as statements of truth? Statements without substantiation, moreover?

When writing about art, we all try to capture what cannot be captured, ever. Therefore creative writing is a logical means of suggesting as precisely as possible what goes through our minds. It is approximating art by using art, in a way. But writing, most of the time, is also communicating, not just self-expression. A margin of freedom should be left to the reader, by the writer's balance of expression and reserve.
This is what disturbs me in the "heart of darkness" qualification: A) it sounds theatrical to me. B): naturalistic styling, as far as I can see, comes closest to what grows in nature, or is supposed to suggest that. In other words, it comes closest to what is familiar, admired or not admired, which stirs no particular (let alone primitive) emotions. The only instances I can think of, where this still happens, is if our imagination leaps from a bonsai to a tree which resembles it, and which for some reason we associate with certain events or a train of thought and feeling. Of course, the bonsai artist can aim at awakening emotions - but would that necessarily be through naturalistic styling?

Nick Lenz's tree does not belong to that category; maybe you would call it "modernistic"? (No reference, btw, to arguments on the IBC.)
Sh..ooot! This is too long. Apologies!
Lisa


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 11:33 am 
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'Walter, would you agree with me, that there is no absolute in art?'
Lisa,
sure I agree. We treat bonsai as art. There is no absolute right or wrong in art. It is all relative to your position.

One can say that this tree is not of my liking. But one cannot critizize the other one for liking it.

Yes, I would not put it exactly into the naturalistic category. It somehow seems a bit manmade. There is nothing wrong with this, it is only not what I call naturalistic. It is somewhat more realistic than so many other bonsai though. I would categorize it as romantic.

The scientific name of this is Rhododendron. Is everybody aware that nowadays the category Rhododendron and Azalea are one and the same? So this is an azalea that looks like a deciduos tree. cool! The overwhelming majority of azalea bonsai look like a juniper which wants to look like a pine tree. We got so used to it that we take it for granted. While I agree that a juniper can well be styled to look like a pine tree I question this practice for azaleas. It has foliage and flowers and thus should rather be styled like a non-conifer.

How about styling a pine tree to look like an apple tree? Everybody is aware that this is not done!!! So isn't this just the same as styling an azalea to look like a pine tree, which just about evrybody does?

This azalea appeals very much to me. I love the way it is NOT styled according to the standard craft principles (= bonsai rules). It is styled by an artist according his feeling for a romantic tree. It speaks very strongly to me and reminds me of many a spooky tree in our forests.

I was going to edit it, take the anthropomorphic holes away and close the visible hole down at the bottom. And then I realized that I had castrated it.
It looked like a somehwat well behaved bonsai, with slightly untidy branching. But the original has no intent to look like a bonsai. And that makes it art vs. craft.

Walter


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 Post subject: The wabi-sabi question
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 1:49 pm 
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Dear Candy
Thanks for your reply. I fully accept every personal approach to the art of bonsai, and I fully understand that we are entering the world of bonsai as individuals. With each our open minds to what bonsai as art is today, and what it can be in the future. What I express here, is my personal view, and my inner feelings for Bonsai.

The difficult thing when discussing in writing is all the sub lines, and extra words that could have been put in, as one can do when discussing face to face, which softens the arguments. Therefore our arguments might stand a little stronger in the written word, than how they are meant to be. I will carry on anyway.

Art is communication, but in my opinion Bonsai is an art that solely reflects nature, and relation between human and nature. The communication in Bonsai has to communicate that part, and not express fear or any other emotion that is not related to nature. These other emotions must be told by other art forms, because I find they don't belong in the Bonsai world.

There is so much to tell via Bonsai, so I don't find this limit ourselves from expressing many feelings or evoke pictures and emotions in our minds through the use of Bonsai. Remember a struggling tree hanging from a cliff, haunted by heavy snowfall, frosty winds and warm dry summers. With its dead parts of branches, a split trunk and dense new foliage it tells a dramatic story. A story that could be linked to the history of a human life. This is Bonsai as art.

Yes, I do find that Bonsai has to be beautiful in some way. I don?t buy the artificial tries to move Bonsai into a part of the art world where non naturalistic elements are put together with Bonsais. Is it then Bonsai that the artist wants to show, or is it something else? Shouldn't the creator choose another palette, another art form, to express her/his feelings and history then?

Concerning the specific discussed tree I agree that the tree will not be the same if the hollows are changed i.e., but I also think it shouldn't be the same tree. It is not a perfect Bonsai and needs some work to be improved into what I find is a good Bonsai. Will it be a resemble of thousands of other bonsais? Maybe, because it doesn't poses the qualities of being extraordinary at this point.

Let's move on to another of your questions Candy.

"Can you not recognize that there are artists that may transcend the wabi-sabi" - Must every bonsai that you value as art, have the wabi-sabi element??

I think wabi-sabi is very important to try to understand, allthough I also truly understand that this is far apart from western thinking. Transcending wabi-sabi might be an explanation of not trying to approach this part of the art, which is grounded deeply in the Japanese understanding of this art form. But why transcend wabi-sabi?

Last I must confess that wabi-sabi is necessary for me when enjoying a Bonsai of high value. But the approach to this is, that wabi-sabi always shows its presence I study such a tree. It isn't so that I seek it; it just shows to be present by the Bonsais I am touched by.

?Can you not expand your limited definition and appreciate when an artist pushes the envelope and is so successful in communicating on such a basic level? ?

I am sorry, but I doesn't find my emotions evoked or find the same elements of joy in this Bonsai, that others doe. Inst it so with many art forms? We don?t see the same in the same painting or sculpture, because we are different, and have different lives and heritages.

Bonsai art can be pushed; it just has to be in the right direction. In link with nature. If we let Bonsai be too simple in communication and expression I think it will lose power, and the art form will decay.

I surely don't find my artistic freedom limited, neither in the way I work or in the way I enjoy others work. Because Bonsai has so deep layers of spiritual and artistic elements to explore. How else could this art form withstand hundred of years of evolution, wars, and Cultural Revolution?
We doesn't have to achieve an agreement here I think. I just hope the discussions here will open our minds, and challenge our approach to Bonsai.

Thanks for your answer.
Kind regards
Morten Albek


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 4:33 pm 
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Walter,
Quote:
This azalea appeals very much to me.

To me as well.

Quote:
I love the way it is NOT styled according to the standard craft principles (= bonsai rules).


I have to say that I didn't compare it with anything, and still don't really feel tempted to. The fact that it is a deciduous azalea didn't seem very important, since it is shown denuded.
Quote:
But the original has no intent to look like a bonsai.


It doesn't? Or do you mean 'like a traditional bonsai'?
I wouldn't like to call it just a miniature tree in the romantic style.
I have that azalea species in my garden and have often wondered if it could be trained as a bonsai. So now I have my answer. Since its flowers are quite big, though, and its leaves not particularly suited to bonsai either, it may look its best only in Winter.

Quote:
The overwhelming majority of azalea bonsai look like a juniper which wants to look like a pine tree.

Grin! Never noticed, they don't seem to here. I'll pay more attention in future to those I see on the Internet.
Lisa


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 5:35 pm 
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"Geez! How terribly subjective!

Why does talk about art so often provoke dramatic descriptions?"

I really can't understand the objection to my "opinion" which was stated as such. Just about everything about bonsai and art is subjective and grows more so the deeper you get into it.

Sure it sounds theatrical. Bonsai --and art-- IS theatrical to an extent. The image created in bonsai are dramatic, not clinical,
"as far as I can see, comes closest to what grows in nature, or is supposed to suggest that. In other words, it comes closest to what is familiar, admired or not admired,"

Well, jeez, that's kinda subjective ain't it? ;-) Nature isn't just trees and grass to humans. Emotions are a big part of how we experience it. "Familiar" is also a subjective term. What's "familiar" to you may not be "familiar" to me--either visually or emotionally. This tree is aimed not at visual familiarity, but at emotional territory. What's admired by me, may not be admired by others.

"But writing, most of the time, is also communicating, not just self-expression"

Well, yes and no. I write for living. I can communicate and express myself (or an idea) without boring the heck out of people at the same time. My remarks were meant to draw a reaction. From the comments, I think I "communicated" quite adequately. You want precise, dry language, try discussing algebra...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 8:10 pm 
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Lisa,
Help me understand why you seem to be so adamantly opposed to subjective, opinionated, dramatic language when discussing and critiquing bonsai art. Your remarks to Mark and Walter echo something you wrote earlier in response to my initial critique:
Quote:
Perhaps, if a tree so clearly "tells a story", one should leave the reading to the viewer.

I simply don't understand why a commentator should take this vow of silence.
Any successful piece of art will be subject to multiple readings and interpretations, and I as a single viewer am unlikely to see all of them in my initial encounter with the piece. This is where the critic or author can come in and provide me with new angles and new perspectives on a work of art. That's a valuable contribution. I don't think any of the contributors here are so naive as to believe that a work of art has only one single "correct" meaning or that it should mean the same thing to everyone.

I take a pluralist approach to meaning in art - but I don't see why I have to wear that on my sleeve in every word I write, littering my prose with continual disclaimers on the subjectivity of my own impressions --- particularly when I comment on matters that are so obviously subjectively and personal. Similarly, I see cold scientific language as a valid critical approach, but certainly not the only meaningful one. Rather than dissect the work of art with clinical precision, some critical commentary may seek to continue along the emotional course onto which the artwork launched one individual viewer, the critic. For this sort of commentary, dramatic or atmospheric language will be extremely useful.
With my best regards,
Carl


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 Post subject: Outline
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 1:07 am 
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The best way to study outlines of different trees is to study the trees in nature. There are good and bad trees in nature. You make your own decision on what to follow or copy.

Keep it Simple and Basic. Don't make it too complicated or it could just get messy. I also find a Focus, or someting of interest. These are my keys that I use when I design a tree.

I drew the outline of this Rhododendron.

If you want to focus on the LINE of the tree, you can design a tall tree. If you want to focus on the base, the outline should be brought down.
To find a focal point is a basic in designing bonsai. This tree, I think, the base is what I would focus on.
Best regards,
Boon
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 Post subject: Re: Outline
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 2:35 am 
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Boon Manakitivipart wrote:
I drew the outline of this Rhododendron.

But Boon, you're talking bonsai. This forum is about art, not bonsai.
Or is it?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 2:55 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Quote:
I also think there is now a swing back in the darker direction as we progress with bonsai in the West. "Naturalistic" bonsai has a heart of darkness, in my opinion, at least as far as it tries to stir deep primitive feelings in the viewer.

Mark, That's my kinda talk!

Really?


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 Post subject: Re: Outline
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 3:27 am 
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Boon Manakitivipart wrote:
If you want to focus on the LINE of the tree, you can design a tall tree. If you want to focus on the base, the outline should be brought down.

These two sentences have been the most valuable part of this entire thread for me. I wish I'd picked up on this in my original critique. In retrospect, it makes so much sense. When the tree is as tall as it is now, its form emphasizes the line of the upper trunk and branches. This line is interesting, and Nick and Candy have done a good job of making this line artistically cohesive with the lower trunk and base. But the line is too dominant to allow the base to be the pure focus. Reducing the height brings the focus back to the base.
Thanks, Boon.
Carl


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