…And We Thought It Was All About The Trees

Vin

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My admiration for Robert Steven continues to grow. Recently, he shared these images with the following quote:

“Any art form needs artistic presentation to convey ideas and message; and there are so many ways to have your bonsai nicely presented. It can collaborate with other art forms including movement, sound etc....”

I’m simply blown away by the “Presentations” in these images!!

What say you?

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Alain

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I would say it's another form of art, it's not bonsai anymore.

Let me explain myself.
I think that in bonsai the tree is the art and also sustain itself alone.
In the pictures above I barely looked at the trees because the composition around get all the attention (essentially on the 1st picture).
So no problem with that but it becomes what they call 'installations' (which I personally find generally quite boring, although in this one I like the trees, once I did look at them).

See, I'm a painter, when I do a painting exhibit you'll see my paintings. If I have to put all sort of craps around in order to sustain them then it certainly means that my painting themselves are kinda crappy ;)
No offense :)
 

Vin

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I would say it's another form of art, it's not bonsai anymore.

Let me explain myself.
I think that in bonsai the tree is the art and also sustain itself alone.
In the pictures above I barely looked at the trees because the composition around get all the attention (essentially on the 1st picture).
So no problem with that but it becomes what they call 'installations' (which I personally find generally quite boring, although in this one I like the trees, once I did look at them).

See, I'm a painter, when I do a painting exhibit you'll see my paintings. If I have to put all sort of craps around in order to sustain them then it certainly means that my painting themselves are kinda crappy ;)
No offense :)
These were my thoughts at first. Then, as I began to take it all in, I started second guessing myself. If there were 200 trees in an exhibition, would I be more likely to stop and really look at these because of how they were presented?
 

Alain

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These were my thoughts at first. Then, as I began to take it all in, I started second guessing myself. If there were 200 trees in an exhibition, would I be more likely to stop and really look at these because of how they were presented?
May be.
But think about it: if there were 200 trees in an exhibition and you are drag to one tree, doesn't it mean that's because this is THE tree ;) (like when I do a collective exhibit and expose with a bunch of random a...holes, if you are drag to my painting it's because I'm better than them :) ) - just kidding, true, but kidding nonetheless ;) -
Also think about that: if you replace the bonsai (which are actually quite nice) by a stuffed Teddy bear in any of the compositions above - may be not the 1st one - wouldn't that drag you to it?
 

thumblessprimate1

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Interesting displays from Robert Stevens, but even more awesome are his bonsai. I would still prefer a traditional display in a Japanese alcove.
 

Giga

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I can appreciate the displays, even if it's not really to my liking.
 

michaelj

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See, I'm a painter, when I do a painting exhibit you'll see my paintings. If I have to put all sort of craps around in order to sustain them then it certainly means that my painting themselves are kinda crappy ;)
No offense :)
I think that if you took a Jackson Polluck painting and stuck it in the middle of some other elements, presented it as a non-traditional painting and told people it was done by some unknown person, the reaction of most people would be that the painting was lame. But then you could strip away the other stuff, tell them it's a Polluck and sell it to some rich person for millions of dollars. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
 
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Alain

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I think that if you took a Jack Polluck painting and stuck it in the middle of some other elements, presented it as a non-traditional painting to told people it was done by some unknown person, the reaction of most people would be that the painting was lame. But then you could strip away the other stuff and sell it to some rich person for millions of dollars.
Well that's a point of view...
I think personally that if more than 50 years after his death we are still speaking of Jackson Pollock it's because somewhere there was something in his painting...

However, as my grand-mother was used to say:
- On est pas Louis d'or, on peut pas plaire a tout le monde.
Which could be translate more or less as: 'We ain't golden coins, we can't please everyone'
:)
 

Vin

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This seems to be a fairly common definition of Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Since we all agree bonsai is a form of art, is there less artistic value because of the displays?
 

Alain

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This seems to be a fairly common definition of Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Since we all agree bonsai is a form of art, is there less artistic value because of the displays?
Not at all!
You said it yourself in your 1st post: 'you've been moved' so bingo, job done! :)
And even if you were the only one been moved everybody else thinking 'this guys is mad, one must put it in an asylum' job done.
An even if everybody but the artist himself though that this is just crap, job done! :) (but in this case most frequently the aforementioned artist ends-up cutting his ears and shooting himself, but well, that's life).
 

Cadillactaste

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I really loved the first one. It represents so much when I look at it...the more modern techniques...sort of steal from the tree I think. To confusing for my mind's eye. I don't feel like my mind is at rest when I look upon them.

Though the last one shared...I love the accent placed on the same stand next to the tree. But, I find the sculptures distracting for the most part.

Back to the first one thought...is that like a raft/cascade!?! That tree in itself is impressive to the point that it could stand alone in mass confusion.

I give him his just do in his ability to think outside the box...but it overwhelmed me. I prefer less is more I reckon.
 

brewmeister83

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Bonsai, as I understand it, is itself an art-form of metaphor, using main trees, supporting plants, and accents (scrolls, figurines, rocks etc...) to create a metaphorical landscape which (depending on pot/ tree/ scroll/ accent combinations) conveys a sense of place, season, may reference historical or poetic scenes, or may even express an emotion.

While these displays are interesting, my take on them is that they're excessive. I feel they're visually cluttered, and I end up focusing more on what the artist is trying to convey with all that other "stuff" than appreciating the bonsai within. Instead of looking at these trees as an expansive forest or mountain-scape, the scale of the trees has been reduced to a stylized-plant-in-a-pot in an art installation. Perhaps this was his intended message (hands of the creator/artist in a few of them - literally seeing bonsai for what they are) but I just find the statement (if that's what it is) distracting.
 
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I've always felt that bonsai is something that invokes a sense of peace and tranquility - like watching the sun set on a clear beach day. To me, it was always about the inherent beauty of nature, even in ones like Walter Pall's fairy tale bonsai. So it's always a bit odd when I see displays like those of Nick Lenz or those shown here. They leave me with an awkwardly disturbed note for reasons I'm not able to really grasp.
 

Eric Group

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I've always felt that bonsai is something that invokes a sense of peace and tranquility - like watching the sun set on a clear beach day. To me, it was always about the inherent beauty of nature, even in ones like Walter Pall's fairy tale bonsai. So it's always a bit odd when I see displays like those of Nick Lenz or those shown here. They leave me with an awkwardly disturbed note for reasons I'm not able to really grasp.
Then they were EFFECTIVE.
 

Eric Group

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I am not going to say anyone is right or wrong in their opinions of liking or disliking these installations, but to say it is not Bonsai because it wasn't presented in a traditional way? That seems to be the general theme most are getting to and that is just... Sad to me. Any human endeavor- be it art, teaching, parenting, business... Is about learning from the past and advancing in the future. If only one static presentation is "allowed" in Bonsai, then it truly IS A DEAD ART FORM. The trees are he focus, butt if you take note this artist included all the technical details of traditional display- the Accent plants, the relationship of the accents to the main plant, the overall symmetry seems right on, and with most he included an image in the background which in some ways are comparable to a scroll... Just more dynamic.., he expanded on that "traditional display" by creating complicated shelves- rather than just the polished wood standard in classical displays.. He incorporated some 3-D elements with the hands and people... All added to the overall image though... Accentuating or mimicking the movements of the trees, or telling a story about the techniques used to train it, or the artists/ viewers feeling of longing for the main object (the tree)... In each display, the trees ARE the focal point. To say they are lost or that the images distract from them? I don't get that at all. If anything these images and sculptures frame and bring added attention to certain elements of the Bonsai. This is a progression of the art form if you ask me... It is similar to comparing classic portraits to a modern day digitally created multi-medium prints... Both are "visual arts"- could be described similarly as 2 dimensional "paintings" in a general sense. Is one NOT a painting because some elements were photography, some were printed from a PC, some were hand drawn/ painted... Does that DETRACT from the image? No. It is ART, there are no RULES. Rules are the antithesis of creativity... To stifle Bonsai as something that must follow certain rules or it is cannot be called Bonsai any longer is detrimental to the progression of the art form.

Like it, or hate it- that is your opinion... But I don't think any of us get to say whether it is or is not Bonsai. Personally.. I like a couple of these, but I really do not like a few as well. That is the great thing about art though- it means different things to different people- truly and "eye of the beholder" experience.
 

Vin

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Very well said Eric. The images can be a bit overwhelming to take in. There is so much going on the mind can be overstimulated. Each display seems to support the story of the tree, just not in a way we're accustomed to. For me, the displays drew me in and caused me to look at the trees more intensely. What's their story? How does the display reflect their struggle for life? Why why why? Do I like all the displays? Not so much; but I really like each one of the trees. The displays caused me to pause for a moment and examine the tree more closely and I think that is exactly what they were intended to do. That's my take away, for what it's worth.
 

brewmeister83

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I am not going to say anyone is right or wrong in their opinions of liking or disliking these installations, but to say it is not Bonsai because it wasn't presented in a traditional way? That seems to be the general theme most are getting to and that is just... Sad to me.
I don't think the majority have said "it's not bonsai" in the posts above. What I believe is being expressed (by myself included) is a sort of disconnect that sometimes happens with modern or avant garde art when applied to traditional themes. It's our brain struggling to make a coherent thought out of both the traditional and modern elements, trying to figure out how it all fits together and turn it into a story. Some of these images are easier to do this with while others are definitely harder...

For example: lets take the fourth image down. I see the cascading deciduous material and the accent plant, combine that with the hints of color and texture the pots provide and it reminds me of overhanging trees and shrubs on rocks cascading over the edge of a pond. But where my mind wants to put this pond, there's broken glass, a shattered lightbulb, and a mirrored table which looks like it comes from the age of disco. So now I'm experiencing a sort of cognitive dissonance because my mind reads "summer pond landscape" overlayed by "condemned urban discotheque" and for the life of me I'm having trouble making those two a coherent artistic thought.

Are these installations art? Yes, without a doubt. Are these bonsai displays? Yes, albeit very modern and avant garde. Do they speak to me or tell a story? At this point, not really. In my opinion, the artist swung the pendulum too far to the left, and in his attempt to make it thought provoking and new ended up with something that may not communicate his message, or any message, clearly to many people.
 
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