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artofbonsai.org • View topic - The Future of Bonsai, The Third Dimension
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 4:27 pm 
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It's funny, but the more the discussion about the possiblity of a bonsai intended to be viewed from all sides goes on, and the more arguments I hear against it from different people, the more I like the idea. All the arguments against it fall flat on their face, in my view.
As far as nature's intention of creating a best front for everything goes, my favorite view of a nude woman is a partial back view with her face looking backwards and smiling at me. So that I have the best of both worlds. I hardly believe that nature created that twisted position as her best front.
As to the argument that bonsai is not a copy of nature, it is our interpretation of nature, this is completely irrelevant to the topic. If the front view is abstract or illusionary, so can be any other view. On a strictly one-view trees, you create the illusion of depth. On a 3D tree, you create actual depth. Both can be done. It's our choice. Creating illuson of any kind, can be called art. But just because on a 3D tree certain illusions are not necessary because you create the real thing, that doesn't make it less artful. The art-ness of it can lie its many other aspects. It is strange that many of us believe that if we create the illusion of a landscape, that's art, but if we create the actual landscape, that's not art anymore. And it doesn't have to be naturalistic at all (if you don't like that stuff). It can be just as abstract as a traditional bonsai.

The argument "what is it for anyway?", is irrelevant as well. "What is bonsai for, anyway?" sounds the same to me.
The argument the a tree should have a best front, is irrelevant as well. Nobody said that it shouldn't. There is always a certain view that we may prefer better than others. A 3D bonsai just have to be credible from all angles. Instead of forcing the viewer to accept one angle, each of us can decide which one we like.
There is the infamous argument "what about the eye-poking branches?". My answer is "what about?" There is nothing wrong with them. Just don't stay too close and don't get hurt.
Recently re-read Naka's bonsai manual. The argument is that branches should not curve or move towards the viewer because from the front view the movement will be invisible. The branch that curves towards you, will look straight. Therefore, it should be avoided.
Well, that rule is perfect for the one-sided view. But for the 3D view, it doesn't apply, since a branch that moves towards you from front, will have a visible movement from the side. So, this rule loses its relevance in this case, and therefore will be ignored. We just need to use our brain a little to use the rules that make sense in our particular circumstances.
And lastly, this 3D concept is not a substitute for traditional bonsai. An artist can and should do both, I believe. There are certain effects that can easily be achieved with the traditional one-side view and difficult or impossible to do with 3D bonsai. Namely, more complex landscapes or conscious optical distortions in order to increase the impact of certain features. When that's the intent, the artist can use the one-sided view.
So, there is a place for both.
I suspect that this discussion would be very different if some real sculptor artists were involved in it.


Last edited by Attila Soos on Wed Aug 10, 2005 6:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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There is obviously no shortage of artistic creativity in the thought process here.
The problem is the actual implementation. It will be a compromise that trades traditional guidelines for others.
Attila,
You mentioned John Naka and his comments about branch placement, eye-pokers and such. Exactly what he taught cannot be practiced with this 3D philosophy. Therein lies my skepticism. Guidelines by the greats, like Naka, have served me well up to this point. I am very hesitant to change what I have done up to now, for what I believe is still just theory. Those of you who are supportive of 3D need to realize that people like me are NOT trendsetters. I am waiting for these theories to be proven superior to established methods.
You said that arguments for front views have fallen flat on their face (I like the pun, whether intended or accidental). Well, how about the questions concerning pot styles, and pot placement? Where are the "3D" answers to that? Pot selection and placement have always been critical steps in making a good composition. So far, the 3D considerations glaze (pun intended) over this.
I agree with visual attributes being part of more than just a front-view, always have. But once again I ask, what is the cost paid when we do not give a preferred view the majority of those attributes? Is a good 3D bonsai superior to a great front-view bonsai? I still say no. In your remarks you do agree with a [quote] "front-view", if I read correctly, but the compromise of this for 3D remains absent from the 3D supporters. The question is, "until you have a starting point, how can you "start" the race, much less finish it?"
I thought an integral part of this thread was the 3D DISPLAY aspect. I would like to hear more about that too.
John


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Displaying such a tree can be done in a much more informal setting, compared to traditional formal displays. That's exactly one of the reasons why I see appeal in it, it is much closer to our western mindset. I like the idea of museum-like displays, where statues are placed on a pedestals or poles, and the walls provide a clear, uncluttered surrounding. But I also like garden displays on poles. Here the surrounding doesn't matter, as long as the trees are given enough breathing space.
For pots, round , hexagonal, and square pots come first in mind because they provide equal weight all-round. This could be best for more or less upright trees. For trees having a pronounced leaning form, I see oval as a better choice because it accentuates the space along the direction of the trunk.


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BTW, church in my opinion is a great place to display these trees. Somehow, the universe and nature represented by these small trees harmonizes really well with the concept of any religion.
And you don't have to worry about people looking at the "wrong side" of the tree.


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Something that appears to have been overlooked here is that bonsai are usually designed with a specific front because they are an exercise in perspective.
Whilst Western artists took until the 14th or 15th century to realise perspective in their work it was prevalent in Chinese and Japanese art much earlier. Bonsai are a part of the artistic tradition of Asia, with all of the expectations and tradition that entails.
Use of the forward-leaning trunk; the short "eye-poking" branches near the crown of the tree; the frontal aspects of the apex design; the placement of back branches; position within the pot; direction and balance; foliage training... all of these things are perspective devices, necessary for the creation of the illusion portrayed by a bonsai. They all contribute to the experience that constitute a "good" bonsai. In fact, it is apparent to a trained eye when they are not present.
That is not to say that the composition should not be aesthetically pleasing when viewed from other angles than perpendicular to the front. Indeed, a good tree should follow the same basic rules when viewed from any angle, including directly above.
There is, however, a best place from which to view a tree to see its branch structure, trunk line and perspective. That place is the front, as chosen by the artist. It should be pointed out that over-reliance, or under-reliance, on the concept of "front" leads to a tendency, often seen in the bonsai prepared by self-taught and unskilled artists, to make a few classic mistakes.
They are:
Lack of back branching. This is usually the mistake made by artists who have learned the art from books. An unawareness of back branches, and the sense of perspective they impart, results in "flat" 2D trees. They may look okay to the ignorant, but they miss the 3D effect of better trees.
Round pots. Not knowing how to identify the front of a tree means that trees are often potted in round pots, by artists often trying to look as though they know what they are doing. In fact, they are making a glaring mistake, to the initiated viewer. They are practically screaming "I have no idea where the front of this tree is, so I'm hedging my bets." In fact, there are few exceptions to the rule that round pots should be used only for "literati, or bunjin trees. The exception might be good quality junipers, in drum-style pots, in my experience.
This may be the viewpoint of an opinionated idiot, or it may just be the result of gleaning whatever information I can on the subject, over the years. I'm not looking to be particularly contentious, merely to convey my understanding of the motivations behind specifying a front.
Trees should be able to be viewed from all angles, certainly, but there is always going to be a best place from which to view any tree.
The concept of being able to view any tree from any angle means that you are willing to accept less than perfection, on even the "perfect" tree, if such a thing were to exist... or less than the best, on any tree that doesn't achieve perfection. Fine, if you want to accept the mediocre, but the concept of 3D trees should be regarded as a separate art, and labelled as such. It is no longer bonsai, in the strictest sense.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 1:10 pm 
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I am new to this group, and have found it more helpful than any other bonsai discussion group I've found. I can learn how to shape a tree, but what is most important is learning to see the best shape to make the tree.
This discussion is on a topic I have thought about for some time.
I think that theater is a good analogy for this discussion. The most common way of staging a play is to have the audience all on one side of the stage. The alternative is theater in the round, with the audience surounding the stage.
Theater in the round has its advicates and devotes. They point out that the actors interact more naturally. They do.
But the performance isn't generally paid for by the performers. The audience pays the bill for the production. And with the theater in the round, I am always seeing the back of one actor, and the one I am seeing the back of is blocking my veiw of the one facing me.
The marketplace makes theater in the round rare.
Like in bonsai, it is generally better to sacrifice reality for a good show.
But a few plays I have seen in the round have worked pretty well. Well enough that I don't miss a play based only on the ad saying it is in the round.
On Aug 5, 2005, John Dixon said to show him "proof" that bonsai in the round (my paraphrase) was better. That brought to mind something from Euclidean geometry.
There is an assmption, or maybe a postulate, I haven't studied formal geometry for many years, that says the following. Given a line and a point not on the line, one and only one line can be drawn through that point parallel to the given line.
That seemed obvious, and was generally accepted for over 1,500 years. But some thought it should be provable, aqnd kept trying to prove it. Finally two people decided to approach the proof by assuming it was not true, and show that it lead to contradictions. It didn't.
Now there are several kinds of geometry, three of them based on the above statement.
One says that through that point, ONE AND ONLY ONE line can be drwn parallel to the given line. That is Euclidean geometry, or plane geometry.
The second says that through that point, NO line can be drawn parallel to the given line. This is spherical geometry.
The third says that through the given point, AN INFINITE NUMBER of lines can be drawn parallel to the given line. This is hyperbolic geometry.
And all these (and other) geometries are actually useful in the real world.
My point is that one rule was broken, and rather than destroying geometry, the replacement rule gave a whole new artform.
Yes I just referred to geometry as an art. Let that pass, please.
The first geometry had over 1,5000 years of tradition behind it, plus the fact that it worked. That didn't prevent the other geometries from eventually being accepted. And the new did not replace the old. Rather they gave ways to solve new problems the old could not solve. The old still solves problems the new can't solve. They are complimentery.
Replacing the rule of a single front will not be the end of bonsai, but rather it will be a different form. A rare form. Not many tres will lend themselves to looking at in the round. Not many bonsai artists will be up to shaping those rare trees suitable for showing in the round.
Naturally, there will also be the poor attempt at the new form of bonsai, like are poor attempt at the old form of bonsai.
But given the above, I believe some of the arguments against bonsai in the round are irrelavant. Will you have to sacrifice a little quality on the best side for the good of the whole tree from all sides? Yes. And if such trees are shown in traditional setting, they will suffer for it. Rather their owners will suffer. A tree in the round should only compete with another tree in the round, because they are being grown and shaped under a different set of assumptions. Each was produced under rules absurd to the other.
That doesn't mean that all of a given grower's trees should be one or the other. I could see having all but one or two of my trees on benches with chairs in front for sitting and admiring them, and the other one or two on monkey poles either turning or with chairs all around them.
None of the trees I have now, nor any in the near future, will merit growing in the round.
One hackberry yamadori I collected in a central Kansas prairie had no bad side. But deer did that, and that deer is doubtless long dead. Unfortunately, so is the hackberry.
Walter Pickett[/quote]


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