Is bonsai art and are you the artist ?

Njyamadori

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So I’ve only been in bonsai for not that long . The thing is that I keep thinking of what even is bonsai and is it just an art medium ? Some artists use charcoal, paints , marble but then if people who create bonsai are just using trees to express ideas , show beauty , and self expression? I feel like the community on bonsai nut are a good representation of the whole bonsai community. So I would like to see if you guys consider that you are an artist that just uses bonsai as a art medium and if not , why aren’t you ?
 

Lorax7

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I think bonsai can be art, but not all bonsai are art. I consider myself to be an artist in a few other media. I think I am still trying to work out how one can really make art in the medium of bonsai.

A note on definitions: When using the word "art", I mean something different from the colloquial use that treats the word "art" as synonymous with "craft", where "craft" means something along the lines of "the power to produce a preconceived result by means of consciously controlled and directed action." (quote from "The Principles of Art" by R.G. Collingwood, pg. 15) For me, it has to mean something beyond just "tree" to be art. It has to be expressive, communicative. There has to be some sort of a visual "text" that you create for a viewer to "read" in some sense, even though that "text" may not be (and often isn't) something that you could express with English prose. This is, of course, part of the difficulty in defining art. It often picks up precisely where human language fails and expresses things that cannot be said in words.
 

ShadyStump

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I think bonsai can be art, but not all bonsai are art. I consider myself to be an artist in a few other media. I think I am still trying to work out how one can really make art in the medium of bonsai.

A note on definitions: When using the word "art", I mean something different from the colloquial use that treats the word "art" as synonymous with "craft", where "craft" means something along the lines of "the power to produce a preconceived result by means of consciously controlled and directed action." (quote from "The Principles of Art" by R.G. Collingwood, pg. 15) For me, it has to mean something beyond just "tree" to be art. It has to be expressive, communicative. There has to be some sort of a visual "text" that you create for a viewer to "read" in some sense, even though that "text" may not be (and often isn't) something that you could express with English prose. This is, of course, part of the difficulty in defining art. It often picks up precisely where human language fails and expresses things that cannot be said in words.
This really does explain how I feel about bonsai, though I never had the words before.
In this context I do feel bonsai is more of a craft than an art. More like carpentry or even mechanical engineering than sculpture, though I've made that comparison myself many times.

A carpenter can make very beautiful furniture, but it's not the same as an art because they are coming at it from a standpoint of function over form. Whereas someone carving a block of wood into a statue is more concerned with the form.

I say this because in bonsai the first thing we have to learn is how to care for a tree, and help it live and grow. In that respect, it's more like an animal trainer, which we can agree is not an art. The difference there, however, is the level of changes we make to our subjects. You can train a dog to walk across a stage on its hind legs, but you're not manipulating it's physical characteristics to make it a biped. We're turning trees into something new and unique, not entirely unlike the carpenter, except we're also practicing horticulture like a gardener, which is also not considered an art

Long to short, bonsai is a craft. We practice applicable science and study function probably more than form, even if from is part of the intended outcome.
 

YukiShiro

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So I’ve only been in bonsai for not that long . The thing is that I keep thinking of what even is bonsai and is it just an art medium ? Some artists use charcoal, paints , marble but then if people who create bonsai are just using trees to express ideas , show beauty , and self expression? I feel like the community on bonsai nut are a good representation of the whole bonsai community. So I would like to see if you guys consider that you are an artist that just uses bonsai as a art medium and if not , why aren’t you ?
If you look at how bonsai and penjing is viewed in the east by their practitioners, yes it's an art, it's to take a living plant and apply techniques to it to create an image. Be that image to express a story of hardship in nature, contrasting death and life concepts or purely longevity and vigor of nature...we are recreating images from nature. I think that in itself is art, whether one likes to admit it or not.

it is not arrogant or a level of prestige to call yourself an artist...that is a stigma coupled to the term these days
to fancy yourself an accomplished artist might have prestige or arrogance coupled to it

yes we are all artists when we apply techniques to a medium to create an image of nature in miniature.

our level of artistry is open to scrutiny though, despite what we see in our own creations and in others creations( scotomas play a huge part here ) and can vary according to taste, which also evolves and changes as we progress down the bonsai journey

many well known artists only became famous after their deaths, this does not imply they only became artists after their deaths, nor imply they were not artists when they just started their journeys

my 2 cents

best regards
Herman
 

just.wing.it

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Yes and yes.

But in the end, it is what you make it.
If you want to have a bunch of trees on milk crates growing out of yard mud in old lunch meat containers, then that's fine....but some people would rather have a million dollar garden with Koi ponds and waterfalls, with bonsai trees on strategically placed monkey poles growing out of pots that cost more than my car.

To each his own.
Call it art, if you dare.....or not, whatever.
 
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There are definitely artists that use trees as their medium, I'm not one of them. Eventually, I'd like to get to a point where I can consider myself an artist. Until then, I'm just a guy that likes playing with trees.
 

hinmo24t

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True story. UmassD art building and surrounding landscape/trails...there are 'art' displays all around this area, i.e. interactive trails w art displays and around the building. But it's sad, they didn't account for weather, wind storms, snow, etc, knocking it all down and strewing it into the woodsand around the woods. Broken mirrors and glass, looks like a ho.eless encampment in various spots. No one picks it up for years and it's it's damn shame, litter and string everywhere, deer and animals probably strangling and choking on it and cutting their feet open. Talk is cheap, tax money expensive and indebted. If you make good money or a strong, long lasting and maintained purposeful composition, I consider you an artist. But if you're a hypocrite and cheap character, you're nothing to me.

Become an electrician plumber carpenter accountant engineer or medical, etc. That campus is destroyed and they'll be the first to knock your lifestyle. Gretas tainted reputation for me, has a negative connotation.

Here's another great artist I do know. Very responsible and not obnoxious, a business and great waterman and family man first

Screenshot_20211206-073559_Facebook.jpg
 

penumbra

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Interesting post. I was always"into"art. As a child and today. I have done a lot of painting in oil, water color and ink & brush. I have sculpted in metal, wood and clay. I have done a lot of pleasing things and sold many. When I had a gallery for 8 years I frequently displayed and sold my works. I also displayed the works of serious artists. It didn't take long for my to figure out that in this scenario, many people who called themselves artists were so not artists and many who were excellent artists would not take take up the title.
I have been called an artist many times but rejected the title. I am not an artist but I am a pretty good art critic. This has always been my response.
I know this has almost nothing to do with this thread, but I think there is little doubt that there is bonsai that is art, there is bonsai that is craft, there is bonsai that is "Man I just like plants" as stated simply with an elegance all its own by our friend from the Netherlands.
Love the post primarily because it has no answer and therefore has no hostility.
 

Cajunrider

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Bonsai is art and I am doing paint by number.
When do we chop BC trunks in zone 9a again?

PS: I'll pretend they are masterpieces when I'm done with them. It's going to take a lot of rum for this old sailor to believe my trees are art pieces. Still I like them.
 

hinmo24t

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btw earlier i didnt mean character being nothing to me associated with how much you make, it had to do with practicing what you preach/being obnoxious

id consider your work art if it sold and you could support a family on it too, pay the typical 30+% to uncle sam at same time. or if it won awards based on votes, with a cash prize, etc. like my buddy John
in Luxembourg

i do think some bonsai can qualify as art, and it is an art form, for some

purposeful composition that is timeless (maintained in some cases as would be with bonsai)
and creates objective demand. views, awards, money, income, timelessness (kind of unmeasurable, more intuitive), etc.
 
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