That was an interesting read, Fred.
If you go back into Asian, especially Japanese history, you will find expert artists and craftsmen. There is also a very long history of "avante garde" art in Japan too, which became more visible post-WWII, but had been there for some time. Japan is not all conformity and rigidity. That's a stereotype. Art in Japan has adapted and drawn from Western art, just as Western art has tapped Japanese sensibilities.That was an interesting read, Fred.
I have a few comments:
The Japanese are certainly a nation of conformists. And we are individualists. I certainly agree with that concept.
As to the training of the apprentices... I'm not sure that I agree with all you say there. Apprentices are trained to copy the style of their masters because that's what the clients of the Masters expect.
Let's say I am a wealthy businessman, and I want Kimura to style my tree. Kimura is very busy, so apprentices do most of the routine work: removing old wire, thinning weak branches, thinning foliage, even repotting. Basic wiring is also straight forward, and branch placement. The apprentice is trained to do it in the same manner and style as the Master. Once the apprentice has completed the work, the Master then "adjusts" the apprentice's work for the final touches. When complete, the tree is styled I the same manner and style as the Master, but the Master didn't have to spend a lot of time doing the tedious work. His "adjustments" however, are what the client wants and is paying for.
In this country, we are just beginning to build a demand for services of bonsai at this level.
Once the apprentice in Japan leaves his Master to go on to his own business, then he is free to develop his own style.
Think of it this way: an assembly line worker at General Motors is not allowed to make Fords. He has to make GM cars. If he were to leave GM, he can build whatever car he wishes.
Well, then it's semantics.I actually know quite a few Japanese artists. What you're describing doesn't tally exactly with what they've told me, but that becomes a "he said, she said" kind of thing. Of course, Japan isn't all conformity and rigidity, but the Japanese artists I know envy the freedom and relative chaos we have here because of the dominance of the traditional in Japan.
I agree that the bonsai of today in Japan are much more aesthetically pleasing than those of the past. But the culture that produces them hasn't changed all that much. For example, I asked my friend, Mano Tohei, to tell me how much the Japanese language had changed in his lifetime. We are about the same age, and I thought, thinking of how much English had changed in just the last 5 years, surely Japanese would have gone with the flow. He said--Changed? Not one bit.
The real point of all this is the use of the word "artist" and what it means here, and what it means there. What it means there, at least according to the many Japanese people I've conversed and corresponded with, is someone from the West who does and is involved in aesthetic practices. Making objects, etc. A Japanese person doing the same thing is not an artist.
We'd certainly recognize them as artists. However, personal experience takes precedence for me over theoretical, or art historical notations. In the essay, I'm telling you exactly what happened to me and to my friend, and how embarrassing it was for him. And, I tell you, this happened over and over again.I have feeling that simply because the Japanese don't use the word "artist" to describe some of these folks, doesn't mean they're not
Ok, fair point, but a lot of contemporary artists don't work in their country of origin. Tina Turner is Swiss now...doesn't mean she wasn't born in Tennessee.Well...Yoko Ono has done almost all her work in the U.S. and Europe.
Yeah and English has the Oxford dictionary and other "official" language sources. Slang is slang. It's never official and old folks can't keep up. I know I don't understand half of the language my 20 year old son uses that is day-to-day language, "suh" is a word...so's "bae"We'd certainly recognize them as artists. However, personal experience takes precedence for me over theoretical, or art historical notations. In the essay, I'm telling you exactly what happened to me and to my friend, and how embarrassing it was for him. And, I tell you, this happened over and over again.
As for incorporating English phrases into Japanese...I'm sure it happens on a popular day-to-day manner, but the Japanese have an official language institute similar to the French Academy. They decide what's in the language and what isn't. My wife has a long-time family friend, Mr. Ofuku, who got the word "cactus" incorporated into official the Japanese language, which had no word for cactus. I've heard him tell the story several times, and it was quite an amusing ordeal. I'm sure the official language institute (whatever its actual name is) is what Tohei was referring to.
Let me say I appreciate your thoughts and I think i understand what you are getting at? Perhaps you are showing the contrast of Japanese views vs Western...
I guess you haven't seen very many good bonsai.Most bonsai (I mean very vast majority world wide) could not be regarded as being works of art any more than if I copied the Mona Lisa and called it art.
Of the ones that are left, the truly good pieces would be even more difficult to find.
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