Do established bonsai guidelines stifle creativity?

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#22
I’m just curious as to what people think.
When trying to understand bonsai as a craft or artform, it's helpful to have a general basis in Japanese art theory and philosophy, since that's the culture it came from. From the bit I've researched over the years there is an underlying theme that seems to culturally bridge all related artforms whether they be ceramics, tea ceremony, or even bonsai in Japan - that is the concept of "the expected." You see this the most in highly structured artistic expressions like Chanoyu (tea ceremony) specifically in Chawan (tea bowls). There is a litany of guidelines or requirements as far as size, shape, weight, balance, etc. when dealing with Chawan, but just look up images online and you'll see hundreds of different bowls, yet they all still conform to the requirements and guidelines for a teabowl that can be used in ceremony. Like size, weight, and balance are the overarching guidelines for Chawan; display, pot selection, branch placement, and scroll selection are all guidelines for bonsai - they are all the basics that are "expected" in a tokonoma for bonsai. Whereas many Westerners find this idea of working within the confines of guidelines suffocating, in Japanese culture the artist find them liberating to a degree. To them, the basics are taken care of, they don't have to think about them as they're already well established in their craft. It's their job then to find creative ways to bend or push the envelope within those guidelines, maybe break them a little as a master practitioner to make a statement; sometimes, very subtly.

Like I said before, this is at its root a cultural thing - Modern Western artists are like people throwing big rocks into a pond - they want to see a huge splash, want to see water spilling over the bank, or heck - they might just grab some dynamite and blast a hole to make a new pond where there wasn't one before. Japanese artist, in comparison, are like people gently tossing a pebble into a pond so the ripples gently caress the lillypads, but don't sink them. Both people have moved water in the pond, but it is the second person who has not disturbed the pond by tossing a rock, but subtly enhanced it's beauty in a creative way. This is what being creative while working within the confines of bonsai guidelines is like, tossing pebbles, not throwing rocks. At least, that's what I've gathered.
 

Anthony

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#23
Sighhhhhhhhhh-
History -Caveman Ogg -> hanging gardens of Babylon? - > India [ auyervedic ] -> Chinese
to Japan - > rest of world

Why this ignorance that it is Japanese ?
Tiresome.

Hence as it goes to the West, develop own models of appreciation.
And the above is how you stifle creativty.

@Silentrunning ,

the mature or immature trees decide our tree shapes.
So mostly formal, informal, leaning and semi-cascade if you
need labels to visualise.

But the island's mild climate encourages mostly gentle shapes.
Inspiration comes from extracted shapes in nature.
Brother-in-law is a Traditional Oil Painter [ think old master work ]
and he draws from 10 trees of one type from nature, and then by memory
creates a design.

Been doing this for so long he can grow a seed/seedling/ cutting
into the design ----- Lingnan - Grow and Clip.
The design is first.
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#25
......... Second, I notice a distinct lack of variety in most trees. I don’t consider this a bad thing, I just wanted to get input from those with far more experience to see what they think. So far I am getting great feedback.
A fairly high percentage of the BNut members are in intermediate stages of becoming bonsai artists. At this stage myself, and my project of late is to deliberately make an effort to not create or re-create the same design over and over. So with branches on my elms & hornbeams, one has gentle up-down, left-right modified S curves, another is very deliberately angular. One azalea is a deep cascade, one a near formal upright, one a slanting windswept. I try to vary what I create.

I find I learn for the effort. I realized I was in a rut when someone picked my tree out from a group because of the repeated use of that modified S curve I described.
 
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#26
As it relates to shows, and in defense of some rules, nothing grinds my gears more than watching a show critique and hearing commentary from an expert which lacks some sort of predictable foundation. Be it the physics of how trees do grow (and what we expect to see), how we expect to see them based on the specific scale they are grown to, ideas related to balance, matters related to what a pot is supposed to do etc. I HATE it when it starts with "Well, I think...". Well, THAT'S NICE, but how will that help someone at the next competition with a different judge?

What's the point of judging if some guy is going to show up with a briefcase of his own homegrown ideas which have no basis of predictability?

It would be nice to have judges send you on to the next competition ready to do better because the next judge understands the same basic criteria of quality.
 
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#27
As it relates to shows, and in defense of some rules, nothing grinds my gears more than watching a show critique and hearing commentary from an expert which lacks some sort of predictable foundation. Be it the physics of how trees do grow (and what we expect to see), how we expect to see them based on the specific scale they are grown to, ideas related to balance, matters related to what a pot is supposed to do etc. I HATE it when it starts with "Well, I think...". Well, THAT'S NICE, but how will that help someone at the next competition with a different judge?

What's the point of judging if some guy is going to show up with a briefcase of his own homegrown ideas which have no basis of predictability?

It would be nice to have judges send you on to the next competition ready to do better because the next judge understands the same basic criteria of quality.

Perfect example to illustrate what I was talking about above with the role of "the expected" in Japanese art and culture ;)
 
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#28
I think it adds structure to new one's starting out...and guidelines aren't written in stone. Sometimes...occassionally we see some material that are in high demand of some needing applied. But at the end of the day...it isn't seen from my backyard. So cheers to them...
 
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#29
Sighhhhhhhhhh-
History -Caveman Ogg -> hanging gardens of Babylon? - > India [ auyervedic ] -> Chinese
to Japan - > rest of world

Why this ignorance that it is Japanese ?
Tiresome.

Hence as it goes to the West, develop own models of appreciation.
And the above is how you stifle creativty.
*sigh*

you talk of ignorance recognizing that bonsai is the Japanese branch of this artform? - and here I thought the word "bonsai" was Japanese

we all know it originated in Chinese culture as PienJing, but that is a different culture with a different cultural aesthetic and artistic philosophy, hence why we don't use their guidelines for bonsai

do you also think it is ignorant to say that modern Western hammers are European in origin, because it is cavemen who first figured out how to pummel things with rocks?

How does having a solid foundation in the history of an artform stifle creativity?

Are you saying learning to hold a pencil stifles your ability to draw?

It is not in my nature to mince words or tip-toe around issues or give back-handed comments by posting after someone and not directly addressing them, so I will say this plainly and directly:

Don't go there with me Anthony, you will lose.

I can and will tolerate a lot of things, but being referred to as ignorant for saying something we all know to be true is not one of them.
 

Anthony

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#30
Please do yourself a big favour,
remain calm and read.
See where the tea, dress, pottery ............. bit came from originally.
Nice brewing with you.
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#31
Please do yourself a big favour,
remain calm and read.
See where the tea, dress, pottery ............. bit came from originally.
Nice brewing with you.
Good Day
Anthony

I'm perfectly calm Anthony, no hard feelings at all,
I just have a habit of calling out passive-aggressive people when they're being snide little @#*!s.

Yes, tea, art, pottery, none of it originated in Japan, I get what you are implying
Some of my most favorite ceramic pieces from Japan are of a type with a history of Korean influence
But that's just it, it's an influence, the Japanese took that design and altered it and made it their own.

Your logic is flawed, you could use the same process to say everything is the same because somewhere at some point in history a caveman came up with the original idea.
But we don't credit cavemen with the invention of Wabi-sabi now do we?
 
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#32
I believe that true creativity stems from a deep knowledge of rules and traditions. When you look at the work of truly innovative artists, like Leonardo, Picasso and so forth, their art is powerful because it is a departure from tradition that can only be made sense of within that same tradition. I think the same applies to bonsai. Innovative artists, those looking for their own aesthetics, such as Walter Pall, for example, know the rules well enough as to break them in a sensible (that is, that it makes sense) manner.
This is a perfect response to someone who's just starting in the hobby and has an "I need no stinkn rules" attitude to the whole endeavor.
 

coh

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#34
This is a perfect response to someone who's just starting in the hobby and has an "I need no stinkn rules" attitude to the whole endeavor.
Probably true in general, but I've seen any number of beginners in various arts (mainly painting) who have little or no formal training or understanding of "rules", create art that is interesting, unexpected, thought provoking, beautiful. Just as I've seen people who know the rules, produce garbage (and usually garbage that all looks similar because...well, rules).
 
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#35
Second, I notice a distinct lack of variety in most trees. I don’t consider this a bad thing,
Hm.. That would be a lack of creativity. Not the impossibility to fit your tree in a category. The true artists will create a tree that give the viewer that "wow" moment. Which is the ultimate test. Not the fitting to a mould.
 
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#36
Probably true in general, but I've seen any number of beginners in various arts (mainly painting) who have little or no formal training or understanding of "rules", create art that is interesting, unexpected, thought provoking, beautiful. Just as I've seen people who know the rules, produce garbage (and usually garbage that all looks similar because...well, rules).
Sure, but those are the exceptions.
 

Anthony

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#37
Wabi Sabi was created by poor folk, who borrowed the idea
from I believe monks.
Don't trust me, that was a comment made on IBC by a guy
who read it in a discussion by Japanese architects in the
late 60's.
Keep em coming

And you missed the Lingnan bit earlier.
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#38
Probably true in general, but I've seen any number of beginners in various arts (mainly painting) who have little or no formal training or understanding of "rules", create art that is interesting, unexpected, thought provoking, beautiful. Just as I've seen people who know the rules, produce garbage (and usually garbage that all looks similar because...well, rules).
yes, but that which you find interesting, etc. you do because YOU understand the tradition, even if they dont. As Marcel Duchamp remarked, meaning in art is always a collaboration between artist and audience
 

coh

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#39
Sure, but those are the exceptions.
Exceptions or not, it proves that one doesn't have to know the rules to produce something compelling (though it may not be accepted into a show that abides by "the rules"). Kind of like the fact that Jack Wikle can grow junipers indoors all year, proves that you can grow junipers indoors, regardless of how many internet warriors say otherwise. It may not be easy and maybe not everyone will be able to do it, but it is possible.

yes, but that which you find interesting, etc. you do because YOU understand the tradition, even if they dont. As Marcel Duchamp remarked, meaning in art is always a collaboration between artist and audience
I don't know if I would agree with that. People are certainly capable of responding to art on more of a gut level.

I go to the National Exhibition every other year and it's filled with trees that meet "the rules", that look like bonsai. Yet very few of them stop me in my tracks or evoke "that feeling". What does that mean...were the rules applied more effectively by those particular artists? Or maybe those were the ones who more effectively bent or broke the rules? Or maybe it's something that can't really be quantified because a particular tree (or painting or sculpture or whatever) somehow connects with something deeper, some past event or memory or place...and it doesn't really matter how well that piece of art follows any set of rules.
 

Anthony

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#40
To - COH

the way your fellow artists say it ----------

"The most sincere form of appreciation is in the purchase."

Good Day
Anthony
 

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