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 Post subject: Shohin displays with or without conifers?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:40 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
Dann Giphart opened a very interesting discussion in the moss thread. About Shohin-bonsai display.
I have noticed Daans efforts to seek new ways of displaying Shohin, using other display stands than the traditional, which I apreciate. And I fully agree with Daan and others, who find that traditional and modern display forms goes along side by side without any problems. Its only a matter of taste and aesthetic consideration of the artist. How it is received by the viewer is up to him or her. It is very good that not all displays are just the same; As long as we strive for quality, the expression and feeling of the display is personal.
What I will like to discuss in this thread is the use of conifers in a Shohin display. the Shohin display has a great focus on the seasonal approach using flowering, fruit bearing trees in summer and autumn, deciduous trees with fresh leaves in spring, or shown with naked branches in winter. This all is understandable and appreciated by most I think.
What I will like to challenge is the use of conifers. Not because I do not like them, or find they should not be present in a Shohin display. They should when the artist choose too.
Conifers are by Japanese tradition always used as the main tree on a Shohin stand in Japan. It is often a pine or juniper. This is because it is the Japanese tradition, influenced by their nature, where pines and junipers are the trees that shows maturity and strength. Deciduous trees are seen as weaker trees.
This is what I have been taught by Tomohiro Masumi and Higuchi Takeshi and learned from other sources too.
My opinion is that it is fine if some find it essential to use conifers in the Shohin display. But I do also find it absolutely all right not to use a Conifers in the display, as long as the display shows great variety of species with different expressions.
Bonsai, and Shohin-bonsai, is about reflecting the nature that surrounds us. In my lowland region there are not powerful pines or junipers. The most powerful tree here is the Oak. Difficult to make as a Shohin because of the leaf size, but the point is that it is a deciduous tree. Therefore I find it very acceptable to show a display without a conifer as main tree, or even present at the display. It can be replaced with another strong tree, like a deciduous tree with old bark and a hollow trunk as an example. Many other possibilities are available.
There are even no Japanese rules that tells that a conifer must be present in the Shohin display. It is the tradition that rules and the influence of reflecting the local nature.
So if we in the lowlands do the same, other trees may have preference to the conifers.
I know that some well respected bonsai people are sure that a conifer have to be present in the Shohin-display, but it isn?t so. It is a choice of the artist, also in Japan. They often just like to follow the traditional way but that doesn?t make it a rule, just a formal tradition. Although you see displays much more playful than the traditional in Japan too, some using only grasses or other creative solutions.
I hope we can explore and accept more freedom in the way we display, and I agree with Walter on the point that bonsai is not only a Japanese thing anymore. Of course we base our art on the Japanese tradition, but the funny thing is that the Japanese do not tell us to follow their way rigidly but to seek our own.
Best regards
Morten Albek

Here a mini-bonsai display by Yvonne graubaek, Denmark using Acer campestre and Ribes

DSC00036.jpg [31.05 KiB]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
No reply yet. Why?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 4:28 pm 

Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 9:35 am
Posts: 731
Location: Southwest Florida,US
I wished I had read about this some time ago..
In my mind I thought it was a must to show a conifer in a multi shohin display:
All my trees were ready for a show but my conifer.
So I tried to "speed up" the development of my little pine a bit and killed it...
Then I made a combination of non conifers,and my little fukien tea over rock got a bug problem and I could not show the display again.
Next,my little elm leaved out too fast,so I defoliated the ends to show some smaller leaves.Bump,took too long...
I do not have a great number of small trees and for me it seem's very difficult to get them all to cooperate when I need them to.
So I am back to the 3 point display,including o n e shohin or mame..
But I am very thankful for your article,might save me some grief next time.;)

 Post subject: Re: Shohin displays with or without conifers?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 4:28 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:59 am
Posts: 7
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Morten Albek wrote:
Of course we base our art on the Japanese tradition, but the funny thing is that the Japanese do not tell us to follow their way rigidly but to seek our own.

That is a very important point, in my point of view anyway. Like you said, it's fine if the artist wants to follow old Japanese traditions, traditions are good and should be respected, no doubt about that. But into what extent? Once again I'm thinking of what the bonsai means to the artist him/herself? Is it just tradition which we are keeping alive, is it a hobby with trees involved or is it a way for us to express some of our insides. In this case, to be more specific, what does a conifer mean to the artist?
Morten Albek wrote:
This is because it is the Japanese tradition, influenced by their nature, where pines and junipers are the trees that shows maturity and strength. Deciduous trees are seen as weaker trees.

What is my relation to trees and what trees do I find the most comforting in different times. From what tree can I learn from the most or relate to it's nature? And then, which ones do I feel comfortable adding to my display?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:49 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 2:06 am
Posts: 91
Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
I like your thinking here. I don't feel that a conifer needs to be in a shohin display - in a tropical region this is especially true.
I am not even certain that a shohin display needs to reflect nature. A shohin display can reflect an infinite number of purposes or ideas. For example a big faux pas is to have no variety in the species of trees in a shohin display, but I believe it might be interesting to have a display of one type of species in a variety of styles pots or stands.
How about a display that aims to show industrialization as a theme - with metallic pots and architectural constructs. Could be interesting, and artistic, and perhaps beautiful.
Bonsai display really should try to get away from the tried and true formula driven Japanese model. If we don't then the art will stagnate.

Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Fri Jul 06, 2007 5:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:46 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
That?s fine Dorothy. We cant all have a great number of trees to select from when trying to set up a display. That?s also where the art of Shohin displaying becomes difficult. We need a lot of different trees to select from, in order to make the ?perfect? display.
It is better to display two good Shohin than five trees with less quality.
With time a bigger collection can be build up and it will be a little easier to make the display, but newer really easy. Even at a good Shohin nursery in Japan, it can be difficult to find all the trees needed for the display. A good display demands preparation over a long time, making each tree stands at its best at the time of displaying. But that is also some of the great fun, trying to make trees working together in a display.
I still, have few really good trees that all work together. It takes some years to develop the needed trees, but I like the journey. And beautiful displays can be done with just a few trees.
It is very very difficult to make a pleasing display, and bringing in a theme about something that is not helping the trees to stand out clearly as the main object is wrong in my eyes. Shohin is specially about showing the seasonal beauty, helped by flowering and fruit bearing specimens i.e.
Shohin is bonsai, but with a lightly different focus than normal bonsai. The overall beauty of the Shohin display is as important as each tree individually observed. The feeling of the display can be colourful or very simple and modest. It can have a formal expression or a free form i.e. But it is always closely connected to express a feeling of nature and especially focusing on the season.
As you suggest Rob, you can make a display with the same specimen, a display with only Satsuki Azalea e.g. The pot shape and colours must differ, as the style of each tree must not be the same. Variation is a key point in the displaying of Shohin.
Some trees can also be replaced by accent plants, Suiseki stones i.e. But it all has to underline the seasonal approach and/or feeling of nature.
I am planning some Shohin displays using themes. As an example I plan a display with a coastal theme. Using sand, shell i.e. with trees reflecting the environment at the coast. It is important though that the overall beauty and simplicity is in focus, so that the feeling of the coast is clear but not steeling the attention from the trees.
It is better to understate than making a point to clear and obvious through a display, because then the point steels all the attention, which devaluates the art of bonsai I think.
Sometimes I have also seen experiments with different display tables. Some are so artistic and artificial that the trees are squeezed by the powerful expression of the table, and then it is not working. The main thing is always the trees.
Experiments is the only way to develop the art, but I think it is very important to keep focus when experiments is done. Shohin-bonsai is about the beauty of the seasons and I think we shall have this clearly in mind when developing the art.
I am trying to build a small table for Shohin displaying, and if I succeed making it good enough I will post some pictures later on. The display is light coloured as it is typical of the Scandinavian culture in the country where I live. This differs some from the darker coloured Japanese displays. That?s another way of developing the expression of the display giving it a more personal feeling than the traditional.
The use of Conifers or not is a another way to make the display personal or culture orientated e.g., and much other smaller or bigger variations can be brought in to develop the art.

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