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Finding a Soul in Bonsai
http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=961
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Author:  Al Keppler [ Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:29 pm ]
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Here is an oak bonsai that my teacher Katsumi Kinoshita brought to the GSBF Convention in 2003. Walter was there and did an in depth critique about this tree. It is very ugly, but when Walter was done, the picture he painted with his words made this ugly oak bonsai majestic. You would have had to been there.

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Author:  Vance Wood [ Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:34 pm ]
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I remember this tree, I have seen it before. I would love to see what Walter would do with it, that man's vision fascinates me. I'm trying to get into his head.

Author:  Mike Page [ Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Al Keppler wrote:
Here is an oak bonsai that my teacher Katsumi Kinoshita brought to the GSBF Convention in 2003. Walter was there and did an in depth critique about this tree. It is very ugly, but when Walter was done, the picture he painted with his words made this ugly oak bonsai majestic. You would have had to been there.

Now we're starting to get somewhere. One picture worth 1000 words. Maybe 10,000 words
Al, as you know, I was there. I well remember Kinoshita's Oak.
It has Soul.
Mike

Author:  Al Keppler [ Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:44 pm ]
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Walter did not seem to think this tree needed any improving. I am paraphrasing but it went something like this:
"I look at the tree and I think this is the ugliest tree I have ever seen. I turn and walk away. As I walk away the tree keeps playing in my mind. It has spoken to me and I have to take another look. I go back and look at the tree. I begin to wonder, how old is this tree? What did it see? This tree may be 400 years old. It may have had a barbed wire fence attached to it at one time. How many cattle have scratched their back on this oak and broke down the branches? Did Pancho Villa stop and take water nearby? What was this tree doing while the Declaration of Independence was being signed? This tree is a rogue. A wild untamed boar. To improve on it would be to tame it. It must remain wild and not slicked. This tree speaks to me, and I understand its language, and that makes it art"
How can anyone not look on this tree with a different outlook? I know those words have remained with me for going on 4 years. I think Walter will agree that is almost verbatim.
Cheers, Al

Author:  Vance Wood [ Thu Feb 08, 2007 9:43 pm ]
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It is an interesting take on an interesting tree. I too remember when that was posted. When I was growing up, not quite twelve, a friend of mine had an older sister who was a bit of a smart-&$$. She said of me one day: "You're so ugly you're cute". This tree is a lot like that though I would not say ugly, it is homely, almost grotesque but it grabs on to you and wont let go. Not meaning any insult to the tree, if that's possible to insult a tree, it is kind of like an auto accident, "Ya just have-ta look". I suppose it is that hidden thing we are looking for.

Author:  Mike McCallion [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 12:30 am ]
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I think Kami is a very appropriate concept in our western attempts to understand bonsai. At least my understanding of it.
What I would worry about now is that folks will go out and try to design soul into their bonsai. Perhaps a further point should be made about ?finding? the soul in the piece, rather than trying to create one.
What we are not as familiar with in North America is the depth of existence of the things around us. We don?t live and breathe it everywhere everyday in everything. In many eastern cultures, there are spirits or gods or kami in everything, from the rocks and trees to the air you exhale. Even the type of energy you give off at one particular moment has an essence associated with it. In Europe, some of this same deeper sense exists in the history of each and every space. Everything in Europe has already experienced so much, that it has been imbued with some essence. It?s there in the dirt in the cracks of an old wall. The folklore contains many of the same roots that became the kami of the East.
Growing up with this as the backdrop can make an appreciation for such things innate ? an intrinsic way of seeing everything. The rest of us will doubtless go on discussing all the things we can do to fabricate a soul in a tree. This is why we should all listen when our instructors tell us to go out and look at trees. Even looking at clouds or streams or blowing snow or ruined buildings or a pile of wire cuttings. There is a sense of pattern and rightness and naturalness that might eventually creep far enough into our vision that we can actually use it.
If you choose you can even see it in a good head of beer, but it gets blurry pretty quickly.

Author:  John Dixon [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:04 am ]
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Vance,
This is a good example of "not beautiful" however it does "speak". Nothing will ever make it beautiful, but it certainly can tell a story.
I equate beautiful with feminine virtues. I hope that doesn't make me a chauvinist.
John

Author:  Vance Wood [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:34 pm ]
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OK, let's take this a step further. If a thing has a soul does it have a voice? Interesting concept and would seem to be so, though the voice is mute it's presence is almost as significant as some words spoken out loud in a quiet room. Let's see what some of you, or all of you think of this proposition?

Author:  Martin Sweeney [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 4:46 pm ]
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I would say the artist has the soul and the voice, and the art would be soulful and speak the artists voice, if done well. Express his vision if you will. Robert Steven's book title "Vision of My Soul" captures what I am trying to say. Maybe my post isn't so soulful....
Vance's statement "it's presence is almost as significant as some words spoken out loud in a quiet room" (admittedly taken out of context) also captures what I am trying to say. Maybe a good tree has presence rather than soul.

Author:  Walter Pall [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Al Keppler wrote:
I think Walter will agree that is almost verbatim.

Al,
yes this is very close. I have now dug up an article about this soul thing and the oak you speak of is part of it. It will be published here shortly.
Walter

Author:  John Dixon [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Martin Sweeney wrote:
I would say the artist has the soul and the voice, and the art would be soulful and speak the artists voice, if done well. Express his vision if you will. Robert Steven's book title "Vision of My Soul" captures what I am trying to say. Maybe my post isn't so soulful....
Vance's statement "it's presence is almost as significant as some words spoken out loud in a quiet room" (admittedly taken out of context) also captures what I am trying to say. Maybe a good tree has presence rather than soul.

Good comments Martin. Glad to see you here.
I'll see you tomorrow at the club meeting!!!

Author:  Al Keppler [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:52 pm ]
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All trees have a voice.
It's just us viewers that sometimes don't understand the language.
Cheers, Al

Author:  Dorothy Schmitz [ Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:22 pm ]
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Reminds me of Edvard Munch's "The Scream":
A painting expressing psychic agony to the extent that you
can actually feel and hear it..
Regards,
dorothy

Author:  John Dixon [ Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Al Keppler wrote:
All trees have a voice.
It's just us viewers that sometimes don't understand the language.
Cheers, Al

True.
But speaking in tongue usually isn't very well-received.

Author:  Will Heath [ Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:56 am ]
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Walter has posted his exact quote on the Oak shown above and his thoughts on beauty here http://www.artofbonsai.org/feature_arti ... oughts.php, it is quite the read to say the least.
Finding the soul, bringing the inner tree outward, releasing the spirit of the tree, listening to the tree, all depend on a working ability to see or hear what the tree is, what it can be, what it wants to be. And all this without forcing our own desires or plans onto it.
This sounds amazingly like "Empty Mind"

Will

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