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 Post subject: Displaying Shohin Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:42 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
This thread is for discussing Morten Albek's article "Displaying Shohin Bonsai"

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:22 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 2:09 am
Posts: 32
Location: Fresno, CA
Hi Morten, I was kind of disappointed when I read all three of these articles here. While the article is very well written I would have liked to seen the companion photos that accompany this article be more representive of the more formal approach to display that you are trying to convey. It is very easy to see the simularities to Gafu in your own efforts, yet you have shown photos of your trees rather than for the sake of education, show photo's from a correct perspective.
I mean in each example you list the positives and then the negative Why list the negatives, it should be proper period! I mean if you knew it was wrong why did you do it? For instance you mentioned in one composition that you felt it was alright to include so many accent plants because they help convey the season. In many three point displays one accent conveys the season. Wouldn't 5 or 6 be a little overkill? Isn't less is more appropriate in display also? I mentioned in my stand profile that Westerners tend to overcrowd Shohin racks and that I do not build as many shelves, so that overcrowding can not happen. Blank shelves can add as much impact as a shelf full of plants, maybe more.
I also wish to make a observation. In your third image you mention that the tree on top has movement towards the center of the display. While the trunk may have some movement to the left, the trunk forms an open "c" which makes the tree move to the right in my eyes. When I squint my eyes I seem to follow the top tree right out of the picture and never get focused on whats going on down below.

Regards, Al Keppler

Last edited by Al Keppler on Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Articles explanation
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 5:55 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
Hi Al
Thanks for your prompt and direct response.
First I will like to explain that the three articles are not tied up closely to each other, and only are covering a part of this big subject. It is individually written articles, each written with a specific objective, but of course with a context approaching Shohin-bonsai display. The articles must be read that way, because they describe different objectives regarding display issues, but selected by AoB to be published here in a row. This is very fine I think.
Displaying Shohin-Bonsai
Well, my goal with this article, which like the other articles originally was published at my personal website, is to show my considerations regarding the displays shown. I think it can be educational for others to go through some of the details of these displays, and read the considerations regarding good and bad parts of the chosen displays.
It is easy to show a high quality display, and tell this is the way to do it. Showing errors or details that can be approved, expands the understanding further I think.
?Perfect? displays were not included in this article, because it was not the aim of the content.
So, why show a display that isn?t perfect?
First of all I think it has educational purposes to show displays that are not perfect, and tell pro and contras regarding the choices made. This also is the case when teaching bonsai in general.
If you only show the perfect examples it is more difficult to understand what must be avoided. Showing faults or possible improvements, adds detail to the explanations. My purpose isn?t to show ?how good I am? but to bring on my knowledge and experiences, and hopefully someone will benefit a little from this.
Many enthusiasts do not have a large bucketload of exhibition quality trees ready and therefore they cannot make a high quality exhibition standard display with the material at hand. I find it valuable to teach what realistically can be done with less perfect material available, and of course show what consequences that has for the display. Even at worldwide only very few people have high quality material at hand to make high quality display all year round.
It is killing the art, if only the very high levelled bonsai and displays are shown as educational examples, because this makes the art of bonsai unachievable for many.
The one doesn?t exclude the other though, so both good and less good examples must be shown for inspiration and educational value.
The less is more term also covers the set up of displays. But I pointed out that (according to the Japanese guidelines) it is ?allowed? to replace some trees with accents or ornaments, if not enough trees are available. This is the point. I didn?t tell to overload the display. None of the shown displays are overloaded.
The Mame-bonsai display contains more items, because the smaller trees have to fill the same area as the larger Shohin-bonsai. You will see the same when studying Japanese exhibitions.
The importance is the use of surrounding space when observing the full display area, which gives the Mame-display peace. The Mame display also has a different aesthetic approach than the larger Shohin, allowing more freedom in the display.
I am not sure that westerners in general overcrowd their displays as you claim? In Europe I have seen many displays well balanced, using space well.
There may be differences from how a Japanese Shohin display is set up, but these aesthetically differences is also found when selecting pots for bonsai, or when styling bonsai. So it should be. We make art based on Japanese traditions, but our western culture influences our approach and how we do the art. Nothing wrong with that I think.
Maybe we will develop another way of displaying in future, when we gain experience and are apple to approach the art freer and more artistically, than rigidly following the Japanese taught guidelines.
My personal view is that Japanese Shohin-bonsai displays, although many are very beautiful, in general are too formal presented. But even from a Japanese point of view, Shohin-Bonsai are much freer and relaxed presented, than standard bonsai at display. It is possible to play with coloured pots much more and the seasonal approach makes it possible to use species not often used for larger bonsai. In spite of the Shohin displaying being less formal than larger bonsai displays, the Japanese are still too formal to my taste. The main tree placed on top of the rack, often is a formal styled Black pine, lacking interest and impact. It would be nice to see more dramatic trees or just other specimens than the traditional Black pine used at this position.
As westerners I think we are less bound to traditions, so we can enjoy another approach, making more interesting and livelier displays.
But we also see things differently as individuals. Especially when dealing with an art form, we can?t always agree ? and we don?t have to. Also the art of bonsai is personal, although general technical guidelines can be harmonised to some basic level.
You might think the main tree moves to the left as you mention. I don?t. Who is right? Maybe we both are right? I have heard this kind of discussion much lately. But the directions of some trees are not so clearly readable as desired for a westerner. Some trees have movements in the trunk giving a direction to the right, but the branches lead left. The question is if this has great importance in all cases? Some trees work both ways, and will work equally well for both directions. A little like trees that have more than one possible front.
I hope my explanation deepens out the subject a little although you might not agree with me at all points. -:)
Best regards
Morten Albek

For the joy, a nice display by Caroline Scott, England. Gingko awarded in 2005.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:03 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:06 am
Posts: 580
Location: Seattle, WA
Morton and Al,
Thank you for a very interesting exchange. I'm learning from reading it -- but perhaps even more importantly, reading these articles and the discussion that follows has me all fired up to go out and play with display options for my trees, to try to improve upon what I can do in my back yard. And that, I think, is more than anything else what I hoped to achieve with this website -- a venture that is both educational and that generates further enthusiasm for working to improve the artistic aspects of bonsai and bonsai display.
One possible resolution of one point of difference: I'd agree with Al that in the USA, people tend to badly overload shohin displays. Al has organized and promoted shohin-specific shows, so I'm sure he's seen this even more directly than I have. But yeah, it's a problem in this country. We're only now starting to move away from the "they're just shohin, pack them all onto one big table at random" mentality in our club shows. From what I've seen from Europe, shohin tend to be treated with a bit more sophistication.
Now for a slightly different direction:
One thing that I am interested in is finding ways to create aesthetically attractive growing spaces where my trees can spend every day. After all, even if I do lots of formal display, I'll spend 99% of my time looking at my trees in their growing environment in my yard. So I want to find ways to display my trees in highly informal settings outside, in their growing areas. I've made some headway with displaying my larger trees, setting them out on my back patio on single tables, coupled with accents (no stands or matts, of course).
I've yet to find equally good solutions for my shohin trees. Do you keep your shohin trees in display-like environments? Any thoughts on how to do so?
Best regards,

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