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Artistic Limitations of Bonsai
http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=109
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Author:  Richard Fish [ Sat Mar 12, 2005 9:42 am ]
Post subject:  Artistic Limitations of Bonsai

This thread is for discussing Richard Fish's article, "Artistic Limitations of Bonsai."
http://www.artofbonsai.org/feature_articles/artlimits.php

Author:  Charles Bevan [ Sun Mar 13, 2005 7:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

An interesting followup article to this would be "Artistic Opportunities of Bonsai" which would explore the advantages of bonsai as an art form in comparison to the advantages of painting, sculpture, etc.

Author:  Rob Kempinski [ Sun Mar 13, 2005 8:54 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think living sculpture is a very sound way to think of bonsai. There are several approaches to sculpture - carving a block of marble is reductive, as is carving wood. Although wood sculpture can be built up just like clay and metal sculpture usually is. Bonsai has elements of reductive and additive sculpture to it. We prune and carve (reductive) or we grow and graft (additive). The key is sculpture is it is usually three D as is bonsai (BTW, a severe limitation to painting on canvas is the 2 D aspect.)

Author:  Reiner Goebel [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:48 am ]
Post subject: 

Bonsai is not at all like sculpture to me.

A sculpture only has outside appearance. If I were to equate a horticultural practice with sculpture, it would be topiary.

Even coniferous bonsai have a very active inner life. In another thread, we discussed the virtues of showing deciduous bonsai in their bare state.
Is there a 'bare state' to a sculpture? I don't see it. A completed sculpture has only one state. A 'completed' bonsai, on the other hand, can have many. If not from season to season, then certainly from year to year.

Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 1:17 am ]
Post subject: 

To me, in addition to sculptural elements, it also contains elements from the performing arts such as dance, and also from jazz.

That's because time and timing are to be considered, there is a lot of improvising involved (bonsai will never "perform" the exact same way twice), there are certain elements of the "scene" that have to be set, and there is life of course. And the work is continually evolving.

All the above are missing from a sculpture, but present in the performing arts.

So, as Charles said, besides its limitations, there are artistic opportunities due to the additional elements that the other visual arts lack.

Author:  James L. Doggett [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:51 am ]
Post subject: 

Actually sculptures of metal, stone, wood or whatever medium do change and evolve. Metal oxidizes, develops patina. Stone may darken, grow lichens, dissolve in acid rain. Wood is effected by moisture and light. Even plastic is often altered by external forces. Materials expand and contract sometimes altering the original artists plans.
Living sculpture is a very apt description of bonsai. I will use that verbiage in the future,

Author:  Carl Bergstrom [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 3:57 am ]
Post subject: 

The comparison may be an unusual one - but I see the art of blown glass as sharing many features with the art of bonsai.
  • In both art forms, the artist works with a medium that is a full and active partner in the artistic exchange.
  • Both media place severe limits on what is possible, but the aesthetic standards of each art reflect these limits.
  • In exchange for the limits imposed, the medium itself provides a profusion miraculous detail above and beyond the act and will of the artist. Think of the detail in the rugged bark of an ancient pine or the suspended explosion of a shattered piece of gold foil frozen within glass.
  • The artist cannot revise ad infinitum; her work is restricted to moments of opportunity be they measured in molten seconds or passing seasons.
  • Both art forms draw their beauty from both external form and internal structure.

A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day watching the three master glassblowers of Studioglas Strömbergshyttan at work in their studio near V'xj', Sweden. As I watched them produce their staggeringly beautiful creations and listened to them discussing their art, the parallels between glass and bonsai made a powerful impression on me.
ImageImage
Photos: Studioglas Strömbergshyttan

Their own descriptions of their work indicate that I'm not alone in this assessment. H'kan Gunnarsson describes glass as "an infinite source of surprise." Leif Peterson, pictured above along with one of his creations, sees glass as a living entity and a cooperative partner in the art itself: "The warm and soft glass has a life of its own - one has to realise this to work with the glass and not against it!"

With my best regards to all,

Carl

Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

Carl,

That's such an interesting parallel! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Author:  Rob Kempinski [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:51 pm ]
Post subject: 

Reiner,

Sculpture doesn't have to be limited to something with an outside only. Consider some of the work on these sites

http://www.brucegray.com/
Click on the free standing metal sculptures. Lots on insides and outsides.
http://www.bathsheba.com/
very intricate inside and outside ? more so than bonsai perhaps.
http://holstengalleries.com/indexha.html?HA14
Since Carl posted glass art, check out this site. Lots of 3D in and out.

http://www.portofsandiego.org/sandiego_ ... /index.asp

And finally, sculptors that sculpt trees ? out on non-tree material.

Author:  Soumya Mitra [ Mon Mar 14, 2005 3:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

TO call bonsai a distinctive art form shall be comprehensible if we consider the art form as subjective and objective amalgamation of visual and performing arts with a dash of literary overtone at times.

It could also be viewed as foster mother of all visual art forms!

Author:  Reiner Goebel [ Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Rob Kempinski wrote:
Sculpture doesn't have to be limited to something with an outside only. Consider some of the work on these sites.


Interesting, but just more complex outsides.

What change do they undergo in the seasons? What did they look like ten years ago? What will they look like ten years hence?

Author:  Rob Kempinski [ Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re:

Reiner Goebel wrote:
Rob Kempinski wrote:
Sculpture doesn?t have to be limited to something with an outside only. Consider some of the work on these sites.

Interesting, but just more complex outsides.?


To me complexity of the surface does not include or exclude whether something is a sculpture. The surface of a solid sphere on a microscopic level has tremendous complexity. It will not be long before sculpture based on fractal mathematics will entail surface structure equal to or more complex than an organic form. (BTW, about 15 years ago I designed a lunar base using the concept of Fractal Architecture TM to provide infinite variety in both surface texture and internal design via a repetition of form but with changing scale.) A bonsai tree can be thought of as a living sculpture with a more organic reticulated surface.
Reiner Goebel wrote:
What change do they undergo in the seasons? What did they look like ten years ago? What will they look like ten years hence?


According to the laws of thermodynamics, the entropy of all systems is increasing. Therefore everything changes, it is only the rate that varies. Some sculpture is designed to remain fairly static over the course of decade or so. But stone erodes, metal oxides, and wood decays. Some artists take advantage of these traits to design sculpture that does change - for instance, Bruce Chaban has equated 'the biodegradable nature of mild steel, which oxidizes, decays, and turns to dust, with human mortality.' Many other artists have taken a similar approach. That trees change over the course of a day or month or season gives them an interesting aspect of their sculptural nature and makes them different yet similar with other sculpture.

Author:  Colin Lewis [ Thu Mar 17, 2005 12:18 am ]
Post subject: 

I've just caught up on this discussion - and I'm with Reiner on this.

"Interesting, but just more complex outsides"

Precisely. A tree has a highly complex inside: a biological machine that must be steadfastly and expertly maintained. One slip and it could be total meltdown!

The changes that take place in a bonsai over time are, unlike other sculptures, a compromise between natural forces and the will of the artist - not necessarily the same artist throughout the life of the sculpture.

And is ther another art where the artist willingly and intentionally collects his own work and rarely lets it go?

Would it be fair to say that if bonsai is to be acknowledged as an art, it should not be necessary (or even possible) to compare it well to another art?

Colin

Author:  Morten Albek [ Thu Mar 17, 2005 4:14 am ]
Post subject:  Unique art

Colin Lewis wrote:
Precisely. A tree has a highly complex inside: a biological machine that must be steadfastly and expertly maintained. One slip and it could be total meltdown!

The changes that take place in a bonsai over time are, unlike other sculptures, a compromise between natural forces and the will of the artist - not necessarily the same artist throughout the life of the sculpture.

Colin


I humbly follow the footsteps of Colin?
In my mind the art of bonsai isn't directly comparable to other arts. It stands out alone as an exclusive art form with a living material that is changing in a on going process.

My opinion doesn't diminish other arts. I just see bonsai as a very unique art form.

In other art forms, the artist leaves behind the painting or sculpture i.e., and rarely works with it anymore after it is finished.

Bonsai demands a complete dedication of steadily care, and development throughout its life, by its possible different caretakers.

Regards

Morten Albek

Author:  Rob Kempinski [ Thu Mar 17, 2005 9:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Living in 'Living Sculpture' is the operative word. This definition therefore encompasses the comments made about complexity and organic nature.

Bonsai has much in common with many other arts but it is closest to sculpture.

So get your berets and start drinking absinthe. :)

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