Ownership and Artistic Credit in Bonsai
Page 1 of 8

Author:  Will Heath [ Sun Jun 03, 2007 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Ownership and Artistic Credit in Bonsai

Ownership and Artistic Credit in Bonsai
by Will Heath

Bonsai by Janet Roth created under the supervision of Boon Manakitivipart. Most recent wiring and branch setting by Michael Hagedorn. Photograph by Sam Edge used with permission of the copyright holder, Boon Manakitivipart.

There has been some discussion on Internet forums recently regarding if, or when, it would be acceptable to show a purchased bonsai. By purchased bonsai it is meant a bonsai that has already been styled by another artist and not styled by the purchaser themselves.

Another often-debated issue revolves around the question of when exactly does a purchased bonsai becomes the new owners and when is it acceptable for the new owner to claim the bonsai as their own work.

With the recent discussions on the Internet and the current active planning of a professional American World Class show, these issues are indeed pertinent and need to be addressed.

In the following article I will merge these two debates together, as I feel they revolve around the same issues and arguments. I will explore many of the justifications used to avoid giving credit to the artist that actually created the bonsai and I will compare many of these thoughts to the same issues in other art forms. For the purposes of this article I will take a strict hard line view that will advocate always naming the artist in all but one scenario, but in the end, I'll leave the final decision as to how these subjects should be treated to the artists, the owners, the patrons, and the people who makes the rules for the shows.

One of the most often asked question on this subject is, "When does a purchased bonsai become that of the new owners?" The answer is simple, never. Well almost never, there is one exception that I will explore in detail later.

It doesn't matter how long you own a purchased piece of art (bonsai is indeed an art form, so I will use other art forms as examples on which to base my thoughts on) the artist is always recognized. Art collectors the world over have long sought after and purchased works of art for their private and/or public collections. Many works of art have changed hands quite a few times over the course of history, owners have changed, and yet one thing always remained constant, Monet's "Water Lilies" have always been Monet's "Water Lilies" and never has the owners name been attached. This work is currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, how silly would it be for it now to be referred to as the Art Institute of Chicago's "Water Lilies" How confusing would such a titling process be when over the course of years the name would change with each new owner until eventually maybe the original artist's name would be forgotten?

Any other work of art always has the artists name attached to it, always. It doesn't matter who buys it, where it is shown, how long it has been owned, the artist created it and the artist always gets the credit. Imagine if a private collector bought Monet's "Water Lilies" and then painted over Monet's signature with his own, the art world would certainly attack that, some would scream plagiarism, it would certainly be unethical, some would call it criminal. Even if the new owner just painted over Monet's signature without signing his own and allowed people to "assume" it was his own work, it would still be unethical.

Some state that since the tree is a piece of living artwork, it shouldn't matter who does the work on the tree. This couldn't be farther from the truth. It always matters, when one fails to mention who created the artwork, they dishonor the original artist and they purposely or unintentionally take credit for the creation and therefore commit plagiarism. Omission of the truth is just as bad as a falsehood.

This leads right into the common argument that once the new owner prunes, trims, wires, or re-pots the bonsai then the original artist needs no longer to be named. The thinking here is that since the bonsai needs to be maintained and the original artist no longer does so, that "ownership" transfers to the new owner automatically after a certain task is completed or a certain amount of time has passed.

Ownership is not in question here; there is no doubt who "owns" a piece of art, well except in those cases where items were stolen during war times, but even then, possession is not, as is commonly claimed, the basis of the law. When Di Vinci painted "The Last Supper" for the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, the refectory "owned" the work of art; after all, they commissioned it. If I commissioned Walter Pall to design a bonsai for my business that would be displayed in the foyer, I would "own" the bonsai once it was paid for. However, Walter's name would always be attached to it, even though I would have to water it, trim it, and eventually re-pot it. I could not ethically show that bonsai without his name attached, ever, well except in one case, which I will get to shortly.

Paintings and sculptures change over time, they degrade, fade, become stained, and even get touched up, but the original artist still remains attached. When Pinin Brambilla Barcilon restored Leonard Di Vinci's "The Last Supper" they not only removed other attempts at restoration, but they painted over some areas as well. It was a twenty-year project that left a completely restored painting that many think lost its original brightness in the process. After all this, it is still Di Vinci's Last supper and not Pinin Brambilla Barcilon's Last Supper.

When Italy's premier restoration institute for stone and marble, Opificio Delle Pietre Dure was chosen to restore Michelangelo's David it cause quite a stir because of the techniques that were slated to be used. Years later it is still Michelangelo's David and not Opificio Delle Pietre Dure's David.

Bonsai by Mauro Stemberger. Originally imported from Japan by the Nippon Bonsai Center. Enrico Savini purchased the tree at Nippon and some months later he sold it to Mauro Stemberger. Mauro Stemberger and Enrico Savini completed the first styling together.

Why would a Bonsai created by John Naka ever be anything else but a Bonsai created by John Naka? If Joe Smith bought one of Naka's trees, at what point would it become a Joe Smith bonsai? If a major collection bought one or received one as a donation, would they ever not mention it was a John Naka creation? Why should a private owner treat it differently?

Taking this to its logical conclusion, when could Joe Smith show his purchased John Naka bonsai? Certainly never in a judged show because like it our not judged shows award the creator of the bonsai.

I am aware that many will argue with the above statement but the truth is the truth. Judged shows are quite clear in their rules which often state how long a person must have owned the bonsai for, some insist on disclosure of the original artist, some require that the work must have been done by the entering artist, and an artist caught entering a "ringer" is quickly chastised and dishonored or at least looked down upon by other artists. Why would these rules be in effect if only the tree is being judged? It's not the bonsai that is being judged, it is the talent that created it that is being judged.

Certainly most shows do not put the artist's name on display with the bonsai but simple questions will reveal that this is done for two reasons. One is for "security" and the other is to prevent bias on the part of the judge toward any particular artist or artists.

Judged shows from the Ginko Awards to local club shows judge the talent of the artist and not the work of art alone. This is why people compete, it is why awards are given, it is why people are quick to congratulate the artist on his placement, it is why such awards are included in the artists? bio, and it is what makes an artist famous.

In Japan, where I understand that many think that more emphasis is based on the tree and where people are known to purchase a world-class bonsai one day and then show it the next day, things are looked at differently, but are they so different indeed? Based on the huge amount of people who buy bonsai to show, many believe that, there at least, it is all about the tree and not the artist. This must be seen in the light that great bonsai artists in that country enjoy a celebrity status and advertised or not, their work is well known to the community. In this environment, naming the artist may not be important because most people know anyhow.

Looking at Japan and the culture there, can we say it is all about the tree? I don't think so; certainly newly purchased bonsai are entered in major events without giving credit to the artists, but is it the bonsai that is being judged or the original artist? The bonsai is indeed being judged but what is the bonsai but the sum of the artists? talent? Bonsai don't create themselves, it is the artist that brought it to the point that it can be shown, that it can win awards. It is the artist that had the vision, it is the artist that did the work, that cared for the tree, and that turned a living thing into a piece of art. A bonsai is the culmination of the artists? vision, talent, and work, it is not the bonsai that is being judged, it is the artists' work that is being judged. A bonsai is the sum of the artists' talent, skills, and knowledge, without which, it would simply be a potted plant.

Let's refer to other art forms again. New artists, be they painters, sculptures, pianists, or whatever, often enter competitions where prestige can be won if their artwork is judged to be the best. These competitions can mean a great deal to an artist, they can make or break a career sometimes. What is being judged here, the artwork or the person who created it? It is the talent of the artist that is being judged and this talent is revealed in the creation. Without a creator there is no creation.

Now let's say I am wrong in my assumptions that the artist is judged and the bonsai is actually what is being judged, again an artist created the bonsai and that artist's bonsai is the one that will win (or not). It is only ethical to name the artist.

Andy Rutledge says in his article "Misplaced Credit in Bonsai" ( )
"Learn this learn it now and keep it forever in your head: The artist who grew the tree or who first styled the tree and then sold it to an enthusiast or other artist does not display it as a bonsai in the exhibit where it wins an award. As I've said before, the tree itself is just a component of artistry. What wins the award in an exhibit is not the tree (at least I sincerely hope not). Rather it is the bonsai display. If you?re participating in judged events where it is just the trees alone that are being judged, you are part of the problem. Don't do that; go display them elsewhere where artistry matters."

As much as I admire Andy, I disagree with him completely on this subject. He makes the creation of and the artistic merit inherent in a well-designed bonsai valueless. I see a display as the frame to display the bonsai in, like a great painting, a frame can greatly enhance or completely ruin a work of art. Certainly there is an art in the making and selection of a frame for a piece of art, but a frame on a wall without a painting is useless for all intents and purposes, it is simply a vessel awaiting fulfillment, not unlike an empty flower vase.

Andy states that it is the display that is judged and not the bonsai. Let's take a look at the 2006 World Bonsai winners ( ... %20RESULTS ) how many of these are in a display? Certainly not the winner. We can also look at our own World View of gallery here at AoB and see world-class bonsai from many countries, not one submitted in a display, unless you count a stand as a display.

Bonsai should be judged in a bonsai show or in a bonsai contest as bonsai just as a painting is judged as a painting, the frame never comes into question when judging the talent of the painter, nor should the display (or lack of) be considered when judging a bonsai. I am assuming that Andy was talking about a full tradition display and not the, needless to mention, pot and stand, which should of-course always be considered.

Now if we are talking about a display contest, like the one we recently held here at AoB, then it is the display that is being judged and the bonsai at that time is just a component of the display, as Andy mentions above. In this instance the creator, the artist that assembled the display should be named and if asked or required, the original artist of the bonsai, scroll, accent, etc should also be named. In our display contest, we stated that the bonsai in the display need not be created by nor owned by the entrant. In the display contest, it was not the talent at creating bonsai that was being judged, it was the talent of arranging an artistic display that was being judged, two completely different talents.

There are those who attempt to marginalize and trivialize this discussion by saying that if we need to give credit to the artist that created a bonsai then we need also to give credit to the person that planted the seed of the tree, to the grower of the stock, or even to the nursery that sold the raw material. Again, looking to other arts for answers, we can see that the maker of the canvas, the manufactuer of the paints, the quarry from where the stone for the scupture was brought, or even the frame maker are never named. It all boils down to who had the talent to turn raw material into art.

The only group of people that naming the artist could possibly discourage would be the patrons, yet patrons of the art could still be and should be praised, without them, very few art forms would prosper. Praise and encouragement should be given to those who acquire and keep a collection of fine bonsai creations. I believe that these few should receive special mention and recognition apart and beyond the artists, just as in other forms of art. In example, if John Smith was a avid collector of world-class bonsai and wished to display his collection in a public venue, as many collectors of paintings do, John should be named as the patron. This showing might be proclaimed and listed as "bonsai 1 by master x, from the John Smith Collection" "bonsai 2 by master y, from the John Smith Collection" etc.

Patrons of the art of bonsai are often overlooked; this is something we all can help to improve. Maybe galleries featuring the collections of patrons, as well as shows set up to feature collections of patrons are long overdue. I personally will work toward showcasing some patrons in the near future. However, the creating artist should be named even in this venue.

In conclusion, based on the above information, it is easy to see why, in today?s existing bonsai shows, a bonsai not created by the person showing it should not be entered without fully disclaiming the original artist. I have shown that these are not bonsai contests but indeed talent contests in which the talent of the creator is being judged. Even in a non-judged competition, the original artist should always be given proper credit if for no other reason than showing respect to the person who had the talent to create the bonsai.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, there is one circumstance where a person could claim the work of art as their own, in which the tree could be shown, judged, or displayed without the original creators name attached. Let's think about Monet's "Water Lilies" once again, if I purchased this work of art and then proceeded to scrape the existing paint off of the canvas and used it to paint my own work on to, then I could certainly sign this piece and claim it as my own. Or if I simply repainted over the painting with my own art, then I could also claim the resulting work as my own.

In bonsai the same would be true where a person took an existing styled bonsai and reworked and restyled it beyond what the original artist created. We are not talking about bending a branch here, or shortening one there, we are talking about creating a new, unrecognizable creation from the material at hand. I'll leave the debate on why one would do this, to others.

Author:  Vance Wood [ Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

Great article: Duck and cover!

Author:  Vance Wood [ Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

I agree Will, in many respects most bonsai shows are talent contests. It is like music where clearly there are two elements mutually recognized, the composer and the performer. If I play Bach's Bouree in Em I may be recognized as a great musical talent or a tin eared, fumble fingered hack, but the music will always be Bach's composition.
In bonsai such is not the case as you pointed out with the Monet analogy, it seems the original artist is totally ignored.

Author:  Al Keppler [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:23 am ]
Post subject: 

This only works in one direction. That is, from top to bottom. If I buy a tree from Kenji Miyata and ruin it, Kenji does not wish to be associated with it.
If Kenji Miyata buys a piece of stock from my collection and makes a masterpiece from it, does Kenji have to list me as the artist? Yea right!
I think this only works in one direction and I think it is futile to debate it. I don't much care who I get the stock from, or who styled it. If I change it, it is mine and mine exclusively. No one will ever come after me to challenge it. Why the fuss. If someone asked me I would tell them who it used to belong to when it was terrible.

Author:  Al Keppler [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:36 am ]
Post subject: 

During the recent Spring festival at The Lee Institute, Kenji Miyata worked on a California juniper supplied by Joe James of Southern California. The tree had been dug about ten years ago and had been pruned and pinched by Joe many times over the course of ten years.
This tree was marvelous, and the dead wood had been well preserved and cleaned up quite significantly. It showed no signs of man and had been worked on with care. Anyone that has worked on these junipers understands how much work and expertise it takes to get a tree to the point that it can be improved upon.
The tree as offered showed a very many desireable attributes as a basic bonsai on its own. Many would love to have a piece of stock such as this to display. It could have been considered bonsai as it was. Kenji of course took the tree much further. This was the desired effect.
Who's tree is this? Is it a Joe James tree? Is it a Kenji Miyata tree? I can tell you that from all accounts and Joe being a very personal and dear friend that it is a Kenji Miyata tree. Joe wants it that way.
Now what would have happened if this had been reversed? What if Joe James had purchased the final Kenji tree and taken it backwards to the original Joe tree? Does Kenji wished to be associated with this? How does this do a service to a master when it goes backwards?
If we as a bonsai community wish to change the rules in one way then they have to be kept the other direction too. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

File comment: Joe James before
DSC_00191.JPG [70.14 KiB]
Downloaded 832 times
File comment: Kenji Miyata after
DSC_00311.JPG [49.57 KiB]
Downloaded 802 times

Author:  Will Heath [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Al Keppler wrote:
If we as a bonsai community wish to change the rules in one way then they have to be kept the other direction too. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

No one is changing the rules Al, as explained above, credit goes to the artist in all other art forms. It has always been this way.
Your scenario and your reverse scenario really doesn't cut any new territory, the original artist is the original artist, no matter who they are until the time when the work has been completely changed, the canvas is scraped, the work is painted over.
We are not talking stock here Al, we are talking art and art starts with a blank canvas. In our case the blank canvas to some may be collected material, to some it may be pre-bonsai, to Kenji Miyata it maybe a piece you created, but is only stock to him as it is doubtful it would remain the same. In your example with Kenji Miyata and Joe James, Joe may have dug it up and pinched it a few times as you said, but Kenji Miyata created the art.
As stated in the article, once the tree is unrecognizable, once the paint has been removed from the canvas, once the work has been painted over, it is then the new owners tree...
Lastly, if Kenji Miyata did purchase one of your trees and left it exactly how it was, only maintained it, then yes, you get the artistic credit. It would be the same if Monet were to purchase and display a doesn't matter who Monet it, the art was created by Rembrandt.


Author:  Richard Moquin [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:41 am ]
Post subject: 

Excellent thought provoking reflections, perhaps better suited for the eristic section. I am sure with exposure this article will bring on some extremely thought provoking arguments.
I personally do not believe that any serious artist would claim something that was not their own. As great works of art speak for themselves, bonsais are no different. The latest contest was indeed proof of that, where the trees entered identified the country of origin but not the artist. When viewing the submissions, the learnt enthusiast knew immediatly the artist behind most submissions, especially when the trees have been photographed or displayed in the past. In bonsai, not unlike painting each artist possess their individual brush strokes and hence the trees display the artistic flair of their creator.
Al raises an important point that if one was to "botch" a world class bonsai, does the original artist wish to be associated with the tree?
I believe it is important to maintain accurate notes and pictures of the road a bonsai has taken, as it will change many times in its life. Serious artists take great time and pride in maintening the original artistic impression of the creators, while "maintaining" the tree. In the majority of cases, they go in to great detail the work that was conducted and why, should a re-style become necessary due to health reasons or interventions caused by mother nature.
If we take into account the "chainsaw" prowesses of Kimura on a given tree as an example, who's tree is it. Having said that Kimura might be known for his "chainsaw" antics but his expertise extend further than his artistic ability with a "chainsaw". Kimura is sought after for his vision and dilligence while maintaining and re-juvenating world class bonsai, which brings on another reflection.
In my short exposure I have come to find out that world class enthusiast respect the tree and the original artistic impression and, will endeavour to maintian the artistic vision of it's creator and will only improve on it for the sake of the tree's future, anecdoting the progress of the tree. Having said that, world class bonsai are rarely seriously flawed where human intervention is required. Maintaining a world class bonsai is a challenging task indeed and the satisfaction of doing so is reward in itself, IMO it goes to show the experience and talent of the current owner vice claiming the tree as their work.
In closing, I believe we North Americans have much to learn on the beauty and passion of bonsais vice the "art". The respect given in Asia to both the tree and original creator is second to none. I believe we can all learn from this and respect these values instead of the quest to claim it's mine.
A Monet, Picasso or Rembrandt speak for themselves and require no introduction. Therefore should a tree no longer convey its origin, due to drastic intervention, then as Will stated the transforming enthusiast can now attach his credentials to the tree. But as stated Asian artists will always bow in humility to the original creator, perhaps we can learn from this.

Author:  Andy Graham [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:31 am ]
Post subject: 

The provenance of your pictoral examples is a bit confusing.Both look to be imported trees.Was there no styling done before coming into the hands of the credited artists?
Is the first one actually a Boon tree since it was done under his supervision?(much like many masters supposedly had apprentices do supervised work on their paintings and sculptures.)Mike Hagedorn did the final branch placement?...and fine wiring?Aren't these the factors which make a bonsai an artistic piece?
On the second....the caption credits one artist(the owner)..the explanation says the work was shared by two people.Does ownership trump the teacher/student relationship?
The devil as well as the beauty is often in the details.The fine wiring,pinching,shaping and general health of a tree are often as important if not more important to the artistic merit of a tree than the general design.Who should receive credit for that?The owner?..or the bonsai "master" who hasn't touched the tree in 5 years?
We've often heard(or read) just how important the pot selection is to the final vision.If a wonderfully designed tree is planted in the is no longer a bonsai.A pot is not just a "frame" for the tree.It is part of the artwork.Is a repotting into a more pleasing and well matched pot considered a restyle?Is that a big enough change to determine "ownership" of the art?
While I agree that bonsai can be art, just as painting,sculpture,drama and music are.I disagree that you can use the other mentioned arts as a comparison to bonsai in the matter of this article.Music and drama are more closely related,probably.They also evolve.Like bonsai,they are not static.They are dynamic works.The original is often performed,tweaked and modified to suit the current "owner".While you used classical music as an example...let me use current music or plays,movies,etc.Most of us know popular songs and movies by the performers or perhaps the directors and producers.How many of us know who wrote the screenplay,or music(unless performed by the writer)?
In conclusion...I think the article's premise is rather simplistic in nature and narrow in scope.It can be argued into infinity and only in our own minds will we reach a conclusion.

Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Andy Graham wrote:
The devil as well as the beauty is often in the details.The fine wiring,pinching,shaping and general health of a tree are often as important if not more important to the artistic merit of a tree than the general design.Who should receive credit for that?The owner?..or the bonsai "master" who hasn't touched the tree in 5 years?

I agree with Andy on this one. I think that the conclusion stating that a purchased bonsai can never be credited to the purchaser is too simplistic. The issue is much more complex, and the answer to the original question can be different from case to case. There is no standard answer and it cannot be generalized. Generalization in this case is meaningless.
I just came back from the California Bonsai Society anniversary convention. An example from this convention can show the complexity and subjectivity of this issue.
I attended a critique of exhibited trees, done by Hirotoshi Saito. The tree in question was a large California juniper. It has tremendous potential, and displays well designed branch placement and foliage. The only obvious fault is that, since it is for a relatively short time in bonsai training, the foliage needs to increase in volume, in order to balance the powerful trunk. But this is just a matter of time.
So, if I have bought this tree, which is considered almost finished, it should be credited to the original creator. However, Mr. Saito discovered another problem whith this tree: its movement or visual flow was ambiguous. The lower part suggested one way and the top part the other way. Mr. Saito suggested that the apex should be slightly re-designed in the opposite direction.
What happens, if after purchasing this tree, I do exactly that? This small modification will change everything. From a more-or-less static tree it becomes a dynamic one. The apex is slightly changed, so the whole branching needs to be stilghtly re-adjusted. All this changes are relatively small, they can be done in one sitting, while the original creator has worked on this tree for years. Since the visual flow changed, this may require a new pot and the placement of the tree in the pot. So, phisically, the change is not a major one, but artistically, there is a different image, the tree has a different impact. From a good tree, I've created a masterpiece that can compete at the Kokufu-ten.
So, should the original bonsai grower get the credit? I don't think so. But he will not like it: "just because you've changed the angle of a few branches?" he will protest with a rightful indignation.
The above shows why this issue is so subjective and unclear.
I have an azalea that came from the nursery of the famous Japanese master, Nakayama. When I bought it, seven years ago, it already had 35 years of work and design behind it, but I would have been embarrassed to display it at a quality show. It needed much more work. It still needs one more year before I am reasonably happy with it. But there is no way that I would show it as a Nakayama creation - even though 75% of the work was done by him, or his people.
The other problem with the issue of taking credit is that a "finished" bonsai may be finished 50%, 60%, 70% or 80%. The original creator may think that this is finished 90%, but the new owner believes that this is not even 60% finished. It depends on the final vision of the current owner. So, who is to decide on how finished a tree is, and how much more it needs to be done? - this is important in deciding where the credit goes.
And if the final 10% of work completely changes the effect that the tree creates, what then? The first 90% may be the work of a good craftsman, but the last 10% may make it into a work of art. But, by the same token, the original creator may say that you've just ruined his tree and made it worse.
Trying to give a simple answer to all this mess, is futile.
But I like the article Will, it makes us think about all these questions, and that is a good thing. You've done a great job raising these issues.

Author:  Will Heath [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Richard Moquin wrote:
Al raises an important point that if one was to "botch" a world class bonsai, does the original artist wish to be associated with the tree?

I think this falls under the "scraping the paint off the canvas" scenario in which the art work is so changed that it is unrecognizable from the original piece. If I decided to draw a few stick figures on a Monet or paint over most the painting, or scrape most the paint off... it is no longer a Monet, it used to be a Monet but I made it my own.
Richard Moquin wrote:
If we take into account the "chainsaw" prowesses of Kimura on a given tree as an example, who's tree is it. Having said that Kimura might be known for his "chainsaw" antics but his expertise extend further than his artistic ability with a "chainsaw". Kimura is sought after for his vision and dilligence while maintaining and re-juvenating world class bonsai, which brings on another reflection.

Kimura has many talents, when he tears a piece up and totally redesigns it as he did once by flipping a tree around upside down, the creation is his, he changed it so much from the original that nothing was left of the first artist's work. However, he also maintains quite a few famous pieces, he didn't create them and the original artist, when known, is always named. Kimura has such a big name now that it gets attached also in these circumstances sometimes.

Author:  Will Heath [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Attila Soos wrote:
So, should the original bonsai grower get the credit? I don't think so. But he will not like it: "just because you've changed the angle of a few branches?" he will protest with a rightful indignation.

I think you used the wrong word above, we are not talking about growers, we are talking about artists, growers grow bonsai, artists create artistic bonsai from what the growers produce. Minor distinction to some, but an important one when dealing with artistic credit as no one is suggesting that the nurseries get the credit for a artistic bonsai anymore than the canvas maker should get the credit for a painting.


Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Will Heath wrote:
I think you used the wrong word above, we are not talking about growers, we are talking about artists, growers grow bonsai, artists create artistic bonsai from what the growers produce.

When I said grower, I meant artist. I said grower in the sense that the artist grew the tree himself. So, you can replace the word grower with "artist", if you like it that way.
(I am reluctant to use the word artist all the time, since I don't consider every good bonsai as fine art - I am afraid that the word is overused. I only reserve that for the best of the best of creations - but this is not the topic here).

Author:  Will Heath [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:33 pm ]
Post subject: 

Yes, I understand your point. There needs to be another word, maybe bonsaist? Growers do just that, they grow, bonsaists attempt to create art from what the growers, or nature produced, from the blank canvas, if you will.
Not all painters using a blank canvas will create art and not all bonsaists using a tree will create art either. But the point is that you can buy a painting or a bonsai and just maintain what was created before (giving credit to the creator) or you can buy a canvas or a tree and attempt to create something worthy of maintaining itself.
To some the blank canvas is nursery material, to some it is collected material, to some it is pre-bonsai, to some it is a well developed bonsai, and to others it is some or all of these....
If you cover the canvas with your talent, your vision, the piece is your creation, if you simply retain and maintain what someone else has created, it is their creation still. To me the concept is a simple one.


Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:48 pm ]
Post subject: 

While we are talking about "artistic credit", here is a scenario that happened at the convention.
Mr. Hiroshi Takeyama (president of Nippon Bonsai Society) did a workshop with 6 people (if I'm not mistaken).
The material was mostly very old elm. He did the branch selections, basic design, basic pruning. He made sure that there is an apex and there are proper triangle shapes everywhere. In short, he did a good job.
Would I use the term "artistic credit" on these trees? Well, I see no art anywhere yet - applying basic bonsai design principles has nothing to do with art, in my opinion (a work of art needs much, much more than first branch, second branch, third branch at 45 degrees, apex and triangle).
Since there is no art, there can be no artistic credit, and this is why I am reluctant to use the word artist all the time. Good craftsman - definitely yes (but please don't make this an art vs. craft thread!) :)

Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Will Heath wrote:
If you cover the canvas with your talent, your vision, the piece is your creation, if you simply retain and maintain what someone else has created, it is their creation still. To me the concept is a simple one.


Yes, you make it sound very simple. I don't disagree here.
But there are no two persons who have the same vision of a tree. Sometimes one vision is reasonably close to another, sometimes it is not too close but not too far either, and so forth.
Where is the point that one can consider a vision different enough to call it "significant", and therefore warranting that the credit needs to be changed to a new person? One new branch, or maybe 3 large branches cut off, or added? Or we can may be equate 3 new branches with 1 change in planting angle plus 1 new branch? Where exactly is that point.
In your quote, the key word in your argument is "your vision". As we have often heard from many artists in the world of fine arts, the artist may not want you to know what his vision is. That's why they often don't give names to the creation, except some meaningless one, such as "bathing nude". They want YOU to see whatever you personally want to see. So, it is your personal vision, what they want.
When you say "you cover the canvas with your vision, the piece is your creation", I always have my own vision, even if I buy a Naka tree. In time, the tree will take on my personal vision, and what John's vision was, becomes irrelevant and forgotten. I may not even have an idea what John's vision was, in the first place. I will always call it a Naka tree, out of love and respect for him, but it may be that if you compare the tree 10 years later with the original picture, you could barely recognize it: it slowly became my personal vision. And unintentionally, I might add. I may have wanted to keep the tree more or less the same, but it changed beyond return.
That's why, this issue is not as simple as you say it is.
And this is why, in may circles, bonsai is not recongized as belonging to the fine arts: the artistic vision is a target that is moving too much to be comfortable with. The art may disappear in a couple of seasons, if not properly maintained. Then it may re-occur. So, the art part is temporary. Art today, and a bush tomorrow.
At least, in performing arts, there is a script, or musical score to follow, but with bonsai, there could be an old picture from one side, or nothing.

Page 1 of 8 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group