Peter Warren's Interview - A Canadian perspective

Rick Moquin

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Undoubtedly Peter''s interview (published recently) at A of B, was probably the most refreshing profile I have had the opportunity to read in some time. I offer these reflections in view of his seemingly relaxed and candid demeanour in which he expressed his views. His words spoke volumes not unlike the embarrassing truth that comes out the mouth of a child at times, and let's face it, it has happened to each and everyone of us on an occasion or two. The wisdom displayed and portrayed from this “bonsai virgin” demonstrated an unqualified full comprehension IMO of this fascinating passion, we call bonsai. Although I labelled him a “bonsai virgin” (a 5 year practitioner) Peter is anything but. He displayed a degree of maturity commendable to most masters and seasoned practitioners.

There has been many debates to date between the differences of Eastern and Western bonsai. It seems that every time we turn around the question is raised. This discussion (interview) pretty much centred on it. I have followed many interviews over at A of B and it seems these comparisons are always an object of discussion. It almost seems as though an unquenchable thirst needs looking after. The quest for an answer, almost an obsession. Why is this so important? Perhaps because the interviewers are Westerners? This question has been answered repeatedly, but it wasn't quite the right flavour, so let's try it once again please, this time in harmony.

The delta exist not by fault of talent or lack thereof, but America is still very much in its infancy on many fronts, and bonsai is just one of them when compared to the rest of the world. Let's face it the East has been around for 2K plus years, America 200 plus. How does one aspire to having a 600 year old trees in that time frame. Heck bonsai has not been around in America since America's inception.

But for those that took the opportunity to read and understand Peter's interview, will soon come to find out that bonsai is not about owning world class trees or bonsai for that matter. It is about the journey and this belief is lost on the West. The individual (owner, practitioner etc...) is but a passing ship in the night in the life of any given tree. The enthusiast envelops himself in the joyous raptures that bonsai brings along with its tranquillity and devouring beauty. He feels a deep sense of commitment and privilege in sharing in the trees journey to majesty.

In the West, especially in today's society we seek and demand instant gratification in most of what we do. We want it now, it needs to be done yesterday, and look what I have. It needn't be spectacular, but it needs to be bigger and better than thy neighbour. Humility has become but a pointless commodity. Yet in the East it is often the very foundation of many endeavours and predominant when practising bonsai on psychological versus mechanical levels. An individual who inspires me is Robert Steven, individuals who have engaged in interlocutory exchanges with Robert can sense this. One does not necessarily need to participate in these exchanges to capture the depths of his passion, his book conveys the message quite clearly. Bonsai must come from the soul and seen with the mind vice the eyes, bonsai is felt, not touched. These facets are shared by many Asians, who have achieved grandeur in the community. Peter has displayed a profound belief in these concepts, as can be readily seen in his interview. If one takes the time and listens to the spoken word vice interpreting what was said then the message is crystal clear.

The aforementioned observations are but a brief synopsis to the root of a perceived problem. Of late bonsai practitioners in general are consumed and I would go as far to state obsessed with the need for acceptance within the art community, while the quiet and humble enthusiast cherishes his accomplishments from within. He does not feel the need nor thirst for recognition, he senses his accomplishments through the visual expressions of his viewers rather than the spoken word. These unspoken displays far outweigh any praise or thirst for acceptance, because in his creation the practitioner not only captured their soul with his achieved beauty, but raised these deep rooted feelings from within their soul to finally end up in an orgasmic crescendo in their minds. These displays are indeed acceptance that the spoken word fails to convey miserably.

Peter's response to the question:
Why do we need recognition from the art community? If the art community does not recognize truth and beauty when they see it then more fool them. The bonsai world should drop the obsession with recognition and just get on with life.

... and later:
These people have created trees that have stopped me in my tracks and drawn a positive emotional response from me. Artistically they have a profound understanding of what is important in a bonsai and their trees do not have their individual personality stamped on them.

In short bonsai is more than just owning trees in the East. In my opinion until the West gives in to the spiritual aspects of bonsai, then they will always be playing catch up. The West has a profound tendency in their quest to be better than the rest of the world. Why is that? This is displayed on many fronts and is not restricted to bonsai. Why? As Peter said folks need to get on with life.

I was going to post this review or a facsimile thereof shortly after reading Peter's interview. I decided against it because the timing was all wrong. If we are to look back at Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie in the mid eighties, with their albums “Thriller” and “Can't slow down”. Both these albums were scheduled for release weeks apart. From a marketing strategic point of view, Lionel's was released a year later. In doing so the sales of the album were similar to those achieved by Michael's album. Sales of Lionel's album on the other hand would have been dwarfed, if both albums were released at the same time, it's all about timing. What does this have to do with bonsai? Let's read on!

A thread was started using a passage in Peter's interview. The passage quoted occurred around two thirds to three quarters of the way of said interview. I stated in the threads that the discussion was taken place out of context, because of the aforementioned points I have raised in my review. A Western question was asked and a reply was forthcoming. Although as I mentioned, these words were printed and hence factual, what was the true meaning behind Peter's intentions as stated?

My interpretation of his words were totally different than the ensued discussion that took place. Having read the entire article, I believe I can discuss his point in a more rational manner than what was exhibited here through passion.

Undoubtedly as discussed in the past that the quickest way to achieve a world class tree is through the use of collected material or acquired pre-bonsai stock but, there is indeed rare gems to be found at local nurseries. This was also pointed out. The mugo I posted some time ago, that I did find in the back corner of a nursery had tremendous potential to becoming a bonsai in short order. Why? because the qualities that we seek in our material were present. This tree did have some faults that needed to be rectified to become a convincing bonsai. The nursery owner was reluctant in selling this particular tree as its health was questionable and hence found tucked away in the back corner of the nursery. I convinced him to sell me the tree anyway. Bonsai in Nova Scotia is not well known. To many bonsai is either “those little Japanese trees” or “mallsai” that all have seen displayed for sale around Christmas time. However, the owner could plainly see that this tree in the rough had a distinctive bonsai outline, from the movement in the trunk, to first branch placement, right down to the nebari which had a beautiful radial spread. The development of this tree had many years behind it. Having previously stated that I salivate over some of the stock available in the US, I find myself compelled (<--- edited) in having to acquire nursery material. The yamadori potential in the US is indeed the envy of both Europe and the East. Anyway this tree was acquired for $25 dollars. It did not survive, but was a worthy investment in my opinion.

Of late far to much emphasis is placed on exuberance, this perception is not often found is the East. Anyone who points out that bonsai can be practised regardless of price is often ridiculed on the forums. Will raised good points in the past, emphasized once again yesterday with regards to quality and price. A long debate ensued and is still on going in those two threads. World class bonsai is achievable with good material. It is unimportant where this material comes from nor what it cost. Good material is good material, period. Having said that, which one will get you there sooner? or does that really matter? In Japan they feel privileged in having played a role in the trees life, vice ownership of said tree. Bonsai is lived not possessed, the passion passed on to the next generation unselfishly.

This is where Peter's comments need to be brought into perspective here. As previously discussed bonsai is not about ownership but the journey. This is conveyed in many passages and facets during Peter's interview. I do not wish to cut and past passages for clarification but do indeed recommend everyone to take a walk over to A of B and read it in its entirety.

Bonsai in the East has been around for an extremely long time and is passed down from generation to generation. They have a deep sense of duty in preserving their heritage. As discussed they envy the quantity and quality of our collectable material. Why? because they can achieve a world class bonsai in a shorter time frame than that achieved by their forefathers, and that is unfortunately today's society regardless of culture, instant gratification, not unlike a four year old who rants: “I want, I want, I want”.

Because bonsai in America has not been around for centuries as in the East, we find very little nurseries that grow out stock. America has jumped on the band wagon with regards to this shortcoming and have finally got on with it. Brent has been at this for many years 25 or so I believe, and finally some of his nurtured stock is finally hitting the market. That is a long time not to mention investment in both time and money to wait for a return on your investment. That is a short time indeed when compared to the East where the majority of their stock grown in nurseries is destined for the bonsai industry or yet again in Oriental landscape settings, have been grown for centuries and the torch passed on to the next generation. The next generation have inherited a gold mine so to speak as they have the ability of growing out stock while controlling sales in order to make a reasonable living. However, as noted bonsai in Japan has its shortcomings also, their cultural future is very much in question as mentioned in Peter's and many other interviews.

There was also a discussion that ensued over at A of B with regards to ownership vice recognition of the trees pedigree and the many artisans involved in its achieved grandeur and beauty. America is obsessed with the facet of ownership as displayed during that debate and once again mentioned during Peter's interview. Although it is my opinion that the timing of the release of the point raised for such a debate was totally inappropriate, I will leave it at that, the ensuing discussion was eye opening to say the least. The views expressed in America are somewhat shared in Europe as well. In my opinion these views are totally acceptable in one way, because they are borrowed culture. The purist on the other hand do not feel the same way. These are the folks that are participating in a bonsai journey rather than creating them, the spiritual level vice the mechanical level, and God forbid anyone who raises this point as he or she is often ridiculed, especially someone who has only recently taken up the passion.

I believe that in order for Bonsai to prosper in the West we need to thoroughly understand its meaning and humility. It has often been said stop talking bonsai and start doing bonsai, and I believe Walter has allured to this particular comment in one way or another, during some discussions.

In closing, when will the West catch up to the East? When practitioners finally embraced and basque in the raptures of bonsai. Until then, you are but a ship sailing in the night without a lighthouse nor compass to guide you to “Bonsailand”

I am truly amazed at the wisdom Peter displayed in his interview for such a novice. Many a seasoned practitioner can indeed learn allot from these spoken words of wisdom. The rest is up to you.

From a humble fan sitting in the stands watching a football match.

The interview
 
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grouper52

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Rick, thanks for the well written and thoughtful review. It provoked thoughts on several areas, one of which you are familiar with, that of a hobbiest who tries to put this potentially all-consuming craft/art/obsession into perspective in a balanced life.

It also, however, brought up another area in which we might tend to disagree, which is the anti-West, pro-East perspective that is often quite prevalent among certain Westerners, and I think extremely prevalent among those drawn to bonsai. As one who has spent significant time in various Asian countries, married several times into their cultures, and practiced Buddhism for 20+ years, I have some experience. Westerners tend to romanticize the East, rejecting their own rich heritage in favor of an exotic culture they usually understand superficially at best. Bonsai is filled with this, and it often surfaces with the most bizarre statements and attitudes. I am not Japanese, never will be, nor am I Chinese. I am an American, proud of my culture, no regrets or apologies, and sad for the people who feel a need to compare themselves in bonsai or any other field to the people of other cultures. As a hobbiest, I am rather blissfully unserious about bonsai, couldn't care less whether the art community appreciates my trees, or whether the Japanese or Chinese might. I enjoy the hobby, try to do it well, but do it as an American, learning what I can when needed from other cultures where the art is practiced, but without a slavish need to compare my efforts to theirs, or to necessarily do it their way. The whole need to compare "American bonsai" to Japanese or Eastern bonsai or even European bonsai eludes me. Much ado about nothing, IMHO. I enjoy working on my trees, rather than spend energy on such things.

Not meant to detract from your great review, Rick, but I think we disagree on the need to even consider that aspect worth talking about. :)

grouper52
 

Rick Moquin

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Rick, thanks for the well written and thoughtful review. It provoked thoughts on several areas, one of which you are familiar with, that of a hobbiest who tries to put this potentially all-consuming craft/art/obsession into perspective in a balanced life.

It also, however, brought up another area in which we might tend to disagree, which is the anti-West, pro-East perspective that is often quite prevalent among certain Westerners, and I think extremely prevalent among those drawn to bonsai. As one who has spent significant time in various Asian countries, married several times into their cultures, and practiced Buddhism for 20+ years, I have some experience. Westerners tend to romanticize the East, rejecting their own rich heritage in favor of an exotic culture they usually understand superficially at best. Bonsai is filled with this, and it often surfaces with the most bizarre statements and attitudes. I am not Japanese, never will be, nor am I Chinese. I am an American, proud of my culture, no regrets or apologies, and sad for the people who feel a need to compare themselves in bonsai or any other field to the people of other cultures. As a hobbiest, I am rather blissfully unserious about bonsai, couldn't care less whether the art community appreciates my trees, or whether the Japanese or Chinese might. I enjoy the hobby, try to do it well, but do it as an American, learning what I can when needed from other cultures where the art is practiced, but without a slavish need to compare my efforts to theirs, or to necessarily do it their way. The whole need to compare "American bonsai" to Japanese or Eastern bonsai or even European bonsai eludes me. Much ado about nothing, IMHO. I enjoy working on my trees, rather than spend energy on such things.

Not meant to detract from your great review, Rick, but I think we disagree on the need to even consider that aspect worth talking about. :)

grouper52
Thanks for the thoughtful words Will. Yes this may seem as a politically charged review, but the message I am trying to convey is anything but. Having said that the written and spoken word are often mis-interpreted without valuable body language and facial expression.

Having traveled the world as you know has afforded me the opportunity to soak up various cultures. I was always interested in the uniqueness each and everyone brought. I am not trying to romanticize Eastern beliefs but perhaps better understand them, and fully support folks that practice this hobby for what is meant rather than the destination. I can say this to you because we have exchanged ideas in the past. I know that to you bonsai is more than just owning trees, bonsai is a passion.

Everyone should feel free to engage in this passion at individual comfort levels without fear of ridicule, from the community. We did see the response to your position last night, and yes there are as many opinions out there as belly buttons, but does it matter? as Walter would say.

My position is quite clear on this subject, I am moved by the spiritual side of this hobby, that is my comfort level. That is what causes me to aspire in this chosen hobby, nothing else. As you the peace and tranquility my trees bring to me cannot be matched anywhere, but, that doesn't matter.

However, if we are going to do it, as Peter stated, then let's do it right, regardless of what right is.

Regards,
Rick
 

grouper52

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Rick,

We're probably not that far off from each other when it comes to these things, and I agree that this is a hobby/art that can be enjoyed on many different levels, and that each person probably finds a level and style of involvement eventually that best suits their needs and character.

Will/grouper52
 

anttal63

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Rick thankyou for your time. As in past threads i so vibe in with where your coming from.
the words you speak and where they come from are real. there is no mistaking that peter warren is one serious cat!!!

some years ago an older woman said to me: " our children are not ours to own, but on loan to us. To guide and nuture. help teach them as well as learn from them ". This statement is almost always in my mind and indeed lets me at times have a different perspective on parenting.

i feel the same about my bonsai; that if i can do the very best i can in my time with a tree, that hopefully the next guardian that comes along can make it even greater.
 
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Bonsai Nut

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Rick, thank you for your post - I appreciate the insight and honesty. Probably the biggest problem that I have with the whole "East versus West" argument is that any time you brand individuals based on the attributes of a group, you are doing grave disservice to many individuals. I don't know where the description of Westerners as being "owners" and needing "instant gratification" comes from. It certainly does not apply to me and many other bonsai enthusiasts with who I am personally familiar. Likewise, the reverse could very well be true - I guarantee you that not all Japanese sit at home meditating about their "bonsai journey". Japanese bank presidents who purchase and own world-class bonsai, and who themselves never touch the tree, are well-known examples of where the East versus West argument breaks down.

The whole collected versus nursery grown argument I find interesting as well. I can actually see all sides of the argument and don't think anyone is wrong :) I think the argument is personal in nature based on a person's location and ACCESS to material. If you lived in Western Oregon and bought raw nursery stock from your Home Depot, I think you'd have to have your head examined. At the same time, if you live in Eastern Iowa, the local Home Depot may be all you have other than corn fields for 100 miles. Which is "better" to you: to have one $4000 tree, or 40 x $100 trees? Is it better to have one excellent world class bonsai that you bought from a master and maintain, or 50 moderate bonsai that you will never take to a show but which you created with your own hands? I live within 100 miles of great collecting areas, but can find one or two days PER YEAR to go collecting. Should I give up bonsai? Should I mortgage my house because I should only work on $1000 and up Yamadori?

I think it is obvious that the answers to all of these questions are: it depends. It depends on who you are, what your interest and skill level is, what your access to material and training is, etc.
 

Attila Soos

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Rick,

Interesting, your perspective on the spiritual side of bonsai. You are saying that without it, practicing bonsai is not as fulfilling and successful as it could be.

I think that spirituality is not closer to bonsai than to any other human endeavour. Hiking in the mountains can be just as spiritual. Drawing or painting, or any art form can be practiced, involving our spiritual side in it. In fact, mystery to me equals spirituality. The sense of wonderment is nothing else than spirituality, without being aware of it.

So, in my case, spirituality is part of who I am, and I don't really feel the need to remind myself of this when I practice bonsai. I am not sure that it is even possible to nurture one's spiritual side when practicing bonsai, and then switch it off during the rest of the day. You can only be yourself, regardless of what you do.

Best regards,
Attila
 

Rick Moquin

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For those that have taken the time to reply I admire your honesty and candour. This was indeed a difficult review to write and regardless how hard I tried to keep political undertones out of said review, it was very difficult and next to impossible, the improprieties in stereotyping a society, not my intent.

In all honesty, my summation of Peter's interview was not fair to Peter, in some ways neither. I have been practicing this craft going on four years now, which is an extremely short time to many. During this time I have been exposed to many of the points raised and discussed during said interview, from various media, the Internet, periodicals etc... These points have always been raised by us "westerners" and, not the other way around.

Today's society as a whole "the world" is seeking instant gratification in all we do, regardless of which endeavour we are involved in. As the current discussion evolving on the other 2 threads seem to point out, and without argument from me, is that collected material will get you there quicker when compared to nursery material. On the other hand isn't that particular statement not seeking instant gratification?

Greg,

You have mentioned Japanese bankers who own bonsai, and yes it is indeed true, they own them, they are not doing bonsai. Anyone who has a tree(s) and never touches them, has these trees looked after by someone else etc... is not doing bonsai, and is nothing but a bonsai owner and that is the difference, once again in my opinion.

It was also pointed out in Peter's review that the future of bonsai in the East is something that concerns many, as the next generation seem to have tabled their interest for the time being. Bonsai as discussed is a part of their culture and heritage, and yes they should be alarmed.

A point that was raised and one that I found interesting was Peter's comments on displays. Where, we are trying to duplicate the setting without having a full comprehension of what a Tokonoma truly represents, of which hanging scrolls upside down, but this is nitpicking (for the purpose of this discussion)

It was mentioned that perhaps I romanticize the East, nothing can be further from the truth. However I am moved wrt their beliefs when it comes to bonsai, and wish to follow on that path. I labeled that path as spiritual vice mechanical. Were those the right words to use? In retrospect perhaps not, but then I would need someone to explain this statement: "Bonsai is the journey, not the destination" and, that is the path I am following.

I am not saying which path is right or wrong and everyone is free to walk their path in individual comfort and do bonsai at whatever level they believe in, as I believe that is indeed freedom. But...

I need to understand the persistence of why these questions surface during many discussions and are seed to many debates?

In the other 2 threads the debate surrounds time and money. They are both extremely important but is it everything? My time is as valuable as the next guy, but if time was not a factor, why do we need to get there quicker? What are we trying to achieve?

In closing I am but a messenger, one who chose to review Peter's interview. Categorically speaking I am also a "westerner". The questions were indeed put forth by a "westerner", and as previously mentioned are and have been surfacing with such a regularity that I chose to raise this point.

Over at IBC a discussion is being conducted on whether it is right to glue on jins to any given tree. It is indeed an explosive topic. The nucleus of this discussion is about Art, not bonsai. If tanukis are an accepted form (once again to get there quicker) then what is wrong with gluing on jins?

Getting back to my review, the questions posed during said interview came from the Western world and replied with candour by a European. If these answers were insignificant, then why all the hoopla about yamadori versus nursery material, after all it is only his opinion. Why not debate the value of the rest of the interview?

Confucious say:

Do not seek answers for which you are not prepared to receive.
 

Hans van Meer

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Rick, I know you are a fan but there are so much misconceptions in Peters Western bonsai views, that are Quoted as a fact in your perspective, that I would like to respond to some.

But for those that took the opportunity to read and understand Peter's interview, will soon come to find out that bonsai is not about owning world class trees or bonsai for that matter. It is about the journey and this belief is lost on the West.

Am I the only one here that find that statement incredibly judgmental, no matter how talented our outspoken you are, especially from some one that has not hardly seen anything from the European bonsai seen.
I am a bonsai artist from the West and I don't want to own top bonsai, I only want to find and style them! And almost every body of my European bonsai Artist friends feel exsactly the same!
And I have dedicated every free minute of the last 17 years on my own bonsai journey! Not to mention all my spare money and all my vacations time, just to get were I am now in my bonsai live. So don't talk about beliefs being lost in the West. I think that all the efforts we all made and the progress of our Bonsai contradict these statements enough, so you might start listening a bid to what we Westerners might have to teach as well.

The individual (owner, practitioner etc...) is but a passing ship in the night in the life of any given tree.

A that carefully thought up myth by bonsai salesman everywhere. That is all very well, but some one has to create them in the first place, so in that mean wile, are we insensitive barbarians if we admit to enjoy to style and eventually show them and feel pride if people like our work? It almost seams that bonsai is the only art form were you are condemned if you actually show some pride in what you do. This is mostly don by novice and people that can not make a bonsai to safe there life, but still I wonder why?

Hans

"Please forgive any bad grammar, I'm from Holland! LOL.
 
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Smoke

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Which is "better" to you: to have one $4000 tree, or 40 x $100 trees? Is it better to have one excellent world class bonsai that you bought from a master and maintain, or 50 moderate bonsai that you will never take to a show but which you created with your own hands? I live within 100 miles of great collecting areas, but can find one or two days PER YEAR to go collecting. Should I give up bonsai? Should I mortgage my house because I should only work on $1000 and up Yamadori?

I think it is obvious that the answers to all of these questions are: it depends. It depends on who you are, what your interest and skill level is, what your access to material and training is, etc.
That is why I brought up the benchmark in the other thread. I think our passion for discussion is of talking about so many unequal things. Pick one masterpiece tree and start over with all these same questions and I think a group of moderately bright people will all agree in a hurry.

Or....I could be wrong. Al
 

Rick Moquin

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Hans,

Your a European are you not? and hence my comments where not directed towards Europe but towards America in general. As I stated, the question is being ask by North American practitioners who wish to draw on a conclusion. I thought Peter's responses was wise and candid.

The time that one has spent in this hobby should never be a reflection of one's beliefs or credibility should it not? The latter comment is found rampantly throughout the forums. Does one need to aspire to any sort of stature to have beliefs?

If we take Robert's thread over at IBC as an example, Robert is deeply troubled with his question. A variety of responses have been put forward and summed up in what I deem as an artistic response.

As I have mentioned over there, yes tanukis exist and are an accepted form, but not something I personally believe is bonsai.

The other arguments brought forward are also extremely valid, if we graft roots, branches, contort our trees in irregular shapes etc... for the sake of "art", then what is wrong with glueing jins on trees. Morten's response was thought provoking "Where do we draw the line"
 
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Rick,

I am seeing something quite profound in this article and your review of it in that the main point being that it is all about the journey. Not just in bonsai but in life with everything. We spend entirely to much time living in the future. It is always the "I cant wait till..." I find myself doing this all to often. Bonsai is really the perfect metaphor for life in this regard. We must plan for the future but not live in it. Enjoy what you have now because you may not have it tommorow.
I used to be an avid climber when I was young. I got into it when I was 14 and living in northern Idaho. I would look up at a mountain and just take off whithout telling anyone. The purity and challenge of the climb itself was irresistable, the summit was secondary but yet still a necessary part of the complete experience. I never saw the point of bragging about my acomplishment, competing with others and especially competing with myself. What I was doing at the time was always good enough for myself. This was the case until I got way into it in my 20's. My partners and the crowd I started hanging with were all about constantly upping the ante on difficulty and danger. All of a sudden It started to become a game of showmanship to others and myself. I did a tough route but could not give it to myself because I had to hang on a piece of gear. In other words, to many rules, to much bs. Soon, the purity and joy of being in, with and conquring nature on her terms got lost in expectations, rules and snobbish judgement.
I see allot of this same kind of thing on this forum (not this post though). To many people using to many absolutes like nursery stock is just a waste of time, or collecting is the only way to go to get the old bark. These statements clash with common sense so much I just cant help but think that they come from ego and not reality. The only thing you cannot do from growing from seed is save time! So really, the argument in the other two threads related to this are about saving time.
To me, bonsai will never become this for myself, I will not let it. I enjoy going to garden centers for the 1 year old sapling tree's and just growing them. Some day they may be show quality, I may have 70 more years if I am lucky which is plenty of time. Watching these little guys change year to year through the seasons is the best reward for now.
 
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The other arguments brought forward are also extremely valid, if we graft roots, branches, contort our trees in irregular shapes etc... for the sake of "art", then what is wrong with glueing jins on trees. Morten's response was thought provoking "Where do we draw the line"

Something that has been discussed often indeed.





Will
 

Rick Moquin

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Mark,

Thank you for your thoughtful words. That is indeed where I am coming from and couldn't have said it better myself.

Will,

An interesting point. I didn't read the thread in its entirety. Although the thread gives cause to reflection, I think what we have seen in the past, but more specifically over the last week or so, it is a question about art and bonsai. I do not wish do get into a long head spinning debate wrt this as this has been hashed out to death before.

Bonsai is art, but the reflection might very well be, to what level of artistic merit do we feel the need to raise bonsai, or yet again, when does bonsai become solely an artistic process vice what bonsai is?

The answer a very thought provoking one that has many facets. Neither right or wrong just different.
 

Rick Moquin

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You wrote the article on the origins of bonsai and hence should be able to answer that one yourself. In the beginning, bonsai had nothing to do with art, but became as it evolved. Will it evolve to a point where it is only art?... that is the reflection.

Right wrong or indifferent, different strokes for different folks. You know where I stand.
 
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Attila Soos

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Over at IBC a discussion is being conducted on whether it is right to glue on jins to any given tree. It is indeed an explosive topic. The nucleus of this discussion is about Art, not bonsai. If tanukis are an accepted form (once again to get there quicker) then what is wrong with gluing on jins?
If tanukis and artificial yins are accepted, than a bonsai entirely made out of plastic, with a few little live branches glued to it, must also be accepted. Imagine a powerful large (3 feet tall) bonsai, made entirely of plastic deadwood and plastic bark, and with a little live tree skillfully planted on top of it. People would admire the beatiful old bark, not realizing that it is made of fiberglass. Whith today's upcoming technology, this is entirely possible.

Artistically, why not plastic bonsai? If people can't tell the difference. It has advantages too: It doesn't break, doesn't rot.

It would be a funny sight, real cute, but NO THANK YOU, GET YOUR PLASTIC TRASH OUT OF HERE!

(How about plastic Suiseki? No need for searching for rocks, you can make out any shape and color you want)
 
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Attila Soos

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Will it evolve to a point where it is only art?... that is the reflection.
Rick, you are right,
People practice bonsai for different reasons.

For me, I practice bonsai for the love of working with live trees. If the material that I work with is not entirely from the same tree, the result means nothing for me. A plastic tree, no matter how artistic, would be entirely worthless and would not touch my soul. I see it as low Kitsch.

So you are right, telling to everybody who practice bonsai, that they are doing nothing but art, is very narrow minded. To some, it may well be nothing but an artistic endeavour. But I personally know many who feel very different. Bonsai is not painting. Bonsai is not sculpture. They have common ground, but bonsai is very unique in that it is alive.

When you come to love a live thing, that's very different from loving a dead thing. A live thing reacts to your actions on its own. A dead thing doesn't.

Sure, I want my trees to be artistic, that is a given. But first and foremost, I want my trees to evoke the mystery of life. The dignity and power of a living thing. To me, bonsai is much much more than just art. It is a state of mind. Art is just a mere tool that I use. Art is part of my bonsai, but my bonsai is infinitely more than art. People who feel the same, they understand. People who don't, it's like trying to explain color to a blind man. Or trying to explain religious faith to an atheist. You either feel it, or you don't.
 
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Rick Moquin

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Attila,

I believe that statement was intended as a rhetorical question and that an individual with such brio would have picked up on that.

I don't support tanukis, much less glued on jins. But in the context of how far do we go? That is indeed a thought provoking question.

Sure, I want my trees to be artistic, that is a given. But first and foremost, I want my trees to evoke the mystery of life. The dignity and power of a living thing. To me, bonsai is much much more than just art. It is a state of mind. Art is just a mere tool that I use. Art is part of my bonsai, by my bonsai is infinitely more than art.
... and those are the thought I am looking to convey. Care to continue this offline?
 
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What is bonsai except solely an artistic process?



Will
Peter answered this in his profile!

I do not see Bonsai as an art, it is much more than art. It lives in between the worlds of horticulture, art, craft, science, philosophy, hobby and commerce. A point of note is that the West invented the term “Bonsai Artist”, not Japan, there they are known simply as a “Bonsai-er” and would not be recognized as one of the fine arts. In Japan the line between art and craft is less definite and beauty is not confined to galleries or pictures in frames.

A great tree designer/artist who has no idea about how to shorten internode length or when to repot cannot create his ideal vision. Damien Hirst needed to understand the chemistry behind formaldehyde and the techniques of butchery before he could saw a cow in two and preserve it for all to see, and a Bonsai artist must be an accomplished horticulturalist before his beautifully sketched picture becomes reality.

I do not consider myself to be an artist; I am an artisan.
I thought this was one of the best bits in the entire profile. That and his admiration for Boon and his students' trees;) . (Not that I'd let him look at mine)
 
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