Western or Japanese bonsai ?

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  jgeanangel on Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:38 pm




There are more reasons to the fact that many western trees do not reach the same quality as Japanese bonsai (generally speaking). One is the time frame. Bonsai in the west is still young, and we do not work the same way as the Japanese do. Bonsai in Japan has very long traditions, and trees has been worked on for generations. That we still waits for here.
Next. Professionals are taking care of developing, styling and caring for the best bonsai in Japan. In the west this is done merely by enthusiasts. That gives the Japanese bonsai an advantage. But you might surely be able to find top bonsai at the same level. My opinion is general, because it is impossible to take all angels into account in discussions and opinions like this one, and there are of course trees that reach that level. They are just few I believe.
I have traveled in Japan a number of times, as well as seen many exhibitions in Europe, and what I see is what I express here.


I hope you understand my point of view.

Best regards
Morten

So i do hope my explanation gives meaning. And I do think it is nescessary to face realities. The travel onwards is it all worth. Very Happy

Thank you for your clarification. I can agree with your explanation in terms of the length of time the trees have been in training. I have recognized for a long time that there is a certain character that is directly related to the amount of time that a tree is in training...I have seen many trees that were not necessarily styled in a manner that was pleasing to me but yet the tree still showed interesting character simply from the time it has spent in a bonsai pot. I believe strongly that given the similar material there are many Western artists, including yourself, that could achieve at least the same results as the Japanese artists and that is what I was react to from your original post.

Thanks,
John

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:59 pm

I do not think a bonsai is a pure replica of what is seen in nature, but an interpretation of that. Bonsai is not without man.

I agree wholeheartedly, here, Morton. And I agree with almost everything else you say, too -- up to a point.

Bonsai should be the essence of nature. I think it should show a tree as it might have grown in nature -- even without the "help" of human beings.

This is evidenced in your of mention jin and shari on Japanese as well as on (too many) western trees. (Too many, is MY opinion!) The problem with almost all Japanese trees with ornate jin and shari that are supposed to show what a rough life that tree has led on the icy, windy mountaintop is that the foliage around that deadwood looks as if it has just stepped out from some Parisian boutique wearing the latest Dior gown and with every hair coiffed and sprayed in place. Not even a faint zephyr of a breeze has touched that part of the tree. Or would dare!

We westerners -- either from a lack of talent, or great wisdom -- sometimes let the foliage match the rest of the tree. (I think we would show more wisdom if we decided to lay off with all (or most of) the carving.)

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  Orion on Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:35 pm

How much of bonsai styling in the West is based on what we try to mimic? We see a Kimura and we strive to elevate ourselves to that level of creativity. Granted, there are only so many ways to style a bonsai in an 'acceptable' fashion, yet many in the West are attempting to find their own voices. In graduate school my mentor told me "you'll know when you are ready when you don't need me any more." In other words, you have enough confidence in your own ability to take what you have been taught and learned in order to make your own mark. It seems as if we are at this juncture in the West. At what point do we step away as the novice and say "this is who I am". There has been much energy focusing on our fidelity to Japanese concepts of the bonsai art, yet it begs the question, what do they think of bonsai in the West?

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:52 pm

what do they think of bonsai in the West?

Hmmm. 99.9999% don't.

Think, that is.

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  John Quinn on Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:59 am

99.9 % of Japanese probably don't think about bonsai at all... Cool

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  Orion on Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:58 am

What I mean is, I wonder what the Japanese bonsai community think about Western bonsai artists?

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  Guest on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:54 am

I think first the headline should be changed from Western or Japanese bonsai to Western and Japanese bonsai
The talks I have had with Kimura, late Kato, Iwasaki and more in Japan is like this. They see a lot of potential in the west. We just need the time for it. In future the quality of bonsai will melt together and be equal. Allthough with differences based on culture i.e.

So it is not Western or Japanese for me. It is Westerne and Japanese bonsai.

Regards
Morten

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  craigw on Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:08 am

I have been following this thread with great interest and have decided to weigh into it.
I don't understand the concept of bonsai being natural. In my mind they are man made creations. When you go into your subalpine or wild environments the trees you dig up are in that raw state natural, then they are bought home and extensively worked, transformed from something that was natural into a bonsai. I don't question the beauty of the end result many of them are superb works but very much man made.
When I look at the superb old Japanese trees I am not looking for something which looks natural but rather for incredible art works which have taken many many years to produce. Sure some of them are credible imitations of plants which grow in the wild but many are not, this to my eye does not detract from the quality of the work or the beauty of the end result.
Here in Australia we don't have the environment or species suitable for collection, our continent is dry and the root systems of our native plants don't allow us to dig them with any success so we grow most of our trees from scratch, the end result is bonsai even less natural than your collected northern hemisphere plants, never the less there are some good bonsai here all be it not natural.
There has also been much discussion here about an Australian style of bonsai. I think this is folly, art transcends borders and should not become nationalistic. I think if you took a european bonsai and placed it amongst an Australian collection it would blend with the locals and be recognized as a bonsai rather than a european bonsai.
Craig

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  Kalogero on Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:33 pm

craigw wrote:I have been following this thread with great interest and have decided to weigh into it.
I don't understand the concept of bonsai being natural. In my mind they are man made creations. When you go into your subalpine or wild environments the trees you dig up are in that raw state natural, then they are bought home and extensively worked, transformed from something that was natural into a bonsai. I don't question the beauty of the end result many of them are superb works but very much man made.
When I look at the superb old Japanese trees I am not looking for something which looks natural but rather for incredible art works which have taken many many years to produce. Sure some of them are credible imitations of plants which grow in the wild but many are not, this to my eye does not detract from the quality of the work or the beauty of the end result.
Here in Australia we don't have the environment or species suitable for collection, our continent is dry and the root systems of our native plants don't allow us to dig them with any success so we grow most of our trees from scratch, the end result is bonsai even less natural than your collected northern hemisphere plants, never the less there are some good bonsai here all be it not natural.
There has also been much discussion here about an Australian style of bonsai. I think this is folly, art transcends borders and should not become nationalistic. I think if you took a european bonsai and placed it amongst an Australian collection it would blend with the locals and be recognized as a bonsai rather than a european bonsai.
Craig

For "natural bonsai", here is a quote from Thierry Font, famous in France : " It's not just put a tree in a pot and waiting for him to be like a real tree in nature, but to do everything to help him to be like a tree of his kind, with respect for his characteristics. And that requires much more work, because this work should not be seen"

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Re: Western or Japanese bonsai ?

Post  JimLewis on Tue Aug 24, 2010 4:26 pm

And it was John Naka who said to "not make your tree look like a bonsai but rather make your bonsai look like a tree".

An awful lot of bonsai today look more like bonsai than trees. We've become too much in love with the "artiness" and less fond of the "treeness."

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