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 Post subject: Profile: Antoni Payeras
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:41 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:35 pm
Posts: 163
Location: The Art of Bonsai Project
Profile: Antoni Payeras

Antoni Payeras with Mame Ficus

Antoni Payeras is a Spanish bonsai artist, born in 1963. His interest in bonsai began in 1984, at the age of 21. After graduating with a degree in Landscaping Architecture, he started a garden and landscaping company along with a nursery. There he began to produce commercial bonsai from native Mediterranean trees. He is a collaborator for the Spanish bonsai magazine "Bonsai Actual", for which he has written numerous articles. He began teaching the art of bonsai to others in 1989, and owns the Bonsai School of Menorca.

Special thanks to Victrinia Ensor for her help with this profile and for editing the bio.

The following is an on-line interview with Antoni Payeras

AoB: Could you tell us about the bonsai community in Spain and what it is like to create bonsai there?

Antoni: Currently, bonsai enjoys widespread acceptance in Spain, although some regions are more active than others.

There are two main competitions in Spain. The Bonsai Museum of Alcobendas organizes the National Bonsai Contest, which until 2006 was the pre-selection to attend the Ginkgo Awards in Belgium. Mistral Bonsai also organizes a high caliber international bonsai competition.

Mistral and other Chinese bonsai importers were responsible for introducing bonsai as a hobby in Spain. Through the successful marketing of their bonsai throughout the country, it is now rare to find homes where they do not know about bonsai.

As an "art" it is less widespread than in other countries, but I think bonsai in Spain is at a great level.

AoB: How did bonsai come to Spain?

Antoni: Bonsai came to Spain in the early 80s through a trading company called Iberbonsai. They began to introduce trees in Spain through a distribution network, of which I was a part. This distribution network was the germ of bonsai in Spain.

A few years later, and because Prime Minister Felipe González was a great bonsai enthusiast, bonsai came to be distributed nationally.

AoB: Who do you feel are leading the bonsai movement in Spain and how are they doing this?

Antoni: Undoubtedly Luis Vallejo leads the way. He is the bonsai artist who has achieved the most success, and his influence with the younger generation has been instrumental in the growth of bonsai in Spain.

AoB: What do you think is needed the most in your country in order for bonsai to gain a stronger foothold?

Antoni: A total reform of the Spanish association of Bonsai, because at the moment it is little more than a bureaucratic institution, without any major activity. The activity of clubs in Spain is limited, and there are no common initiatives to improving the standard of bonsai.

Menorcan Juniper (Juniperus phoenicea var thurbinata)

AoB: What native species are being used now for bonsai and what native species do you think has the most potential for future use as bonsai?

Antoni: Wild olive tree (Olea europea var. sylvestris)
Yew (Taxus baccata )
Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris)
About four spicies of Juniperus, included our Menorcan juniper (Juniperus phoenicea var thurbinata)
Myrtle (Mirtus comunis)

Wild olives, junipers and yews will continue to be very popular choices for bonsai.

But lesser known species like Phillyrea latifolia, Rosmarinus officinalis, Prunus malaheb, Buxus sempervirens, Buxus balearica, Pistacia lentiscus, and others, will gain a more important place in the future as the art expands.

AoB: Where do you think the best material for bonsai in Spain is coming from?

Antoni: The best come from the north of Spain (Asturias), in the Pyrenees, and the Balearic islands.

The Balearic Islands, on Majorca and Minorca, is where the best wild olive trees in the Mediterranean can be found.

AoB: Could you tell us more about the school, Bonsai in Menorca? Is it really free to all?

Antoni: We started teaching bonsai 20 years ago. The system that we use to educate students is a mixture of western and Japanese methods. The student performs a basic training course, where they learn the fundamental skills essential in bonsai. Then, and there is no fixed time frame, they practice the techniques taught on the trees in our collection.
The school is not free; students have to pay a small amount to cover the professor fees.

AoB: What are the future goals for the school?

Antoni: Currently we are involved in a large joint project that includes several Spanish schools. The idea is offer shared courses, so students can learn the specialty of each school. This will be an itinerant training program. Students will not be so completely influenced by a single teacher or style, as can happen now. We believe that with this system that we will have more well rounded students, bringing the level of bonsai teaching in Spain to a higher level.

AoB: You offer a database program managing bonsai collections; could you tell us more about this? Is it available in English? Where can a person find this program?

Antoni: We have recently updated both our website and the program. This program was designed to help us to keep track of our collection. I thought that it might be useful for other enthusiasts who have a medium or large collection, so I decided to share it. The program is free, because it makes no sense to sell it; there is no market for program like this here, so I distribute it for free. The only commercial, is a banner for the school in the header.

The program is already available in English on our website. It can be downloaded from this address: ... s-English/

AoB: Is bonsai heavily influenced by Japanese traditions in Spain and to what level?

Antoni: In recent years there has been a significant Japanese influence.

Previously the creation of bonsai in Spain was more independent. But with the publication of the journal "Bonsai Actual" (Spanish version of "Kinday Bonsai", like "Bonsai Today") which marks tendencies and trends in Spain, the presence of Japanese artists and influences in Spain, is very evident.

Antoni Payeras at the Gingko Awards 2007[/i]

AoB: Is the culture of Spain finding its way into the bonsai being created now?

Antoni: Spain is a country of great artists in all artistic mediums. Bonsai and its artistic philosophies, are increasingly finding their way into Spanish art. A few years ago, I published an article about the nature of Wabi-Sabi. The examples were based on contemporary Spanish painters, such as Tapias and Miguel Barcelo.

AoB: Do you think the Westernization of bonsai will be good for the art form in the long run?

Antoni: I do not think that we are talking about the future; I think it is a reality now.

Kimura was sidelined by sectors of bonsai practitioners in Japan but praised in the West; the result has been an evolution towards the "Westernization" of bonsai in Japan.

We have only to compare catalogues of Kokufu twenty years ago to now, to see evidence of that.

AoB: What native species do bonsaists in Spain look to for inspiration?

Antoni: I think the models that inspire bonsaists in Spain are the different species of junipers that grow in mountains or on the coast. They offer ideal proportions, movement, and a lot of interesting character.

AoB: It is our understanding that you are working on a judging system based on the Spanish, French and Japanese systems. What can you tell us about this?

Antoni: This system is an application to facilitate the assessment of bonsai, both in competitions and collections.

It is a compilation of French, Spanish and Japanese systems used to judge Bonsai.

In this new system, twenty-three aspects of a bonsai are valued, with some of them being optional.

The final score is determined according to the ratings given for each aspect. Sixty percent of the score is given for aesthetic aspects and the rest for technique.

Although individual scores for each aspect range from 0 to 5, the actual total is determined at the end. In the final calculation, the points awarded may have more or less value than their number reflects. A score's effect on the final calculation is relative to the value assigned to each aspect. For example, if we award a 5 in "Proportions", 8 points are actually added to the final score, because it accounts for a higher overall valuation in the rating system.

The values assigned to the optional aspects, if they are not a factor in the assessment, are distributed among the rest of the scores, so that they will not affect the final valuation.

This program is just a prototype, and hopefully we will improve it with feedback from its users.

We have made available to everyone, the latest version of this program. It was developed by some of the most talented international artists from all around the world.

This tool can also be downloaded from the school's website.

Menorcan Juniper (Juniperus phoenicea var thurbinata)

AoB: Why did you feel the need to develop a new system for judging bonsai?

Antoni: It is important to note that we are not trying to create a new standard, we simply wanted offer a tool to help with valuations. The idea was not solely mine, but was one of the projects evolved from the partnership established among the different Spanish bonsai schools. Some Spanish teachers wondered at the validity of the accepted judging system. We had seen in recent years, chaotic competitions which earned trees that did not merit it, a place in first-level exhibitions. This is because the Spanish system for judging is based on the French, which does not allow for valuing excellence. We wanted to create a system which could take into consideration current trends in bonsai, and thus be up to date and dynamic.

AoB: We seen a few entrants from Spain in our contests here at AoB, how did you feel about these contests and what would you like to see happen with them in the future?

Antoni: I enjoy the photographic contests, because photography is often more critical than our eyes.

There are many forum sponsored contests, but only a few with the quality of those sponsored by AoB. I think there should be more like them. In the future, perhaps there could be a network of quality contest where the best trees from each one, can compete in a higher one.

AoB: What are your feelings on internet bonsai forums, are they useful?

Antoni: I think the usefulness of internet bonsai forums is obvious. They are responsible for the ongoing expansion of bonsai. At the moment they are essential, especially for beginners. Where bonsai enthusiasts gather, the art can flourish. The internet acts as a convenient way for that gathering to occur.

AoB: What would you like to see more of on the internet? Less of?

Antoni: I would like to see a focus to create more short teaching videos, especially around demonstrations and techniques. I think it's a resource the internet provides us that we have not yet truly seized upon.

In Spain, as with many places, we have many forums where it is a mixed bag of commercial bonsai with quality trees. I would very much enjoy a forum such as yours in Spanish, where quality is exemplified.

AoB: William Valavanis has created the first ever American National show which will be held this October. What advice would you pass along as far as hosting such a historical show?

Antoni: I would advise him that his biggest goal should be to attract as many enthusiasts as possible to attend. The greater the attendance, the greater the appreciation of bonsai in general grows. It is always interesting to get television, radio and newspapers carry out any news about the show, but do it early enough in the event to increase the visitors.

True fans will go anyway. What we have to achieve is to attract the general public. Greater numbers of visitors, facilitate the future financing of top level exhibitions.

AoB: In your opinion, who do you think is creating the most inovative bonsai today?

Antoni: At the moment I am not so sure that I would give this title to Mr. Kimura. For years now we have not seen any ground breaking trees from him, though that was definitely the case in the 80's and 90's. I think that in Japan there is very little innovation at the moment.

In the West, I think there is a great deal of innovation happening. The most notable are Sandro Segneri, Kevin Willson and Marc Noelanders, in that order.

In Southeast Asia, there is a remarkable movement from the old ways of creating penjin towards creating bonsai instead. We are discovering a new universe of magnificent trees and new species. This has given us a whole new group of artists who are being innovative even as they are changing the way of doing bonsai their countries. Budi Sulistyo, Lo Min Hsuan, and Cheng Cheng-Kung are very good examples of the evolution of Asian bonsai outside Japan.

AoB: Do you think there is a need for such exploration or should aspiring artists stick with the traditional approach?

Antoni: Yes, we should always be exploring the borders of knowledge. I think we have reached technical and aesthetic levels high enough to start new trends.

In any art, there are fashions and eras, bonsai is the same. These fashions and eras are not sought, it is simply artistic evolution.

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