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artofbonsai.org • View topic - The Tokonoma Window
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 Post subject: The Tokonoma Window
PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2005 2:07 pm 
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The thread is for discussion of Carl Bergstrom's article, "The Tokonoma Window."


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Thanks for the interesting topic, Carl.

My initial response echoed that of Atilla, that is, the window provides not an escape from the inside, but serves as a vehicle to unite the interior and exterior. Rather than a claustrophobic response, I experience a calmness that is in part related to the warmth of the diffused, incoming light, bathing the scene with subtlely changing hues, each moment different from before. The windows and doors in the wonderfully illuminated scenes posted by Carl serve to bring my ultimate attention not to the window, but to the faces bathed by the revealing light.

In fact, whether the tokonoma should really even be considered as part of the interior world was addressed by Professor Isamu Kurita in his treatise entitled "SETSUGEKKA- Japanese Art and the Japanese View of Nature":
"The tokonoma is not regarded as part of the interior space; rather, like a sacred mihrab, as a place where communion occurs between the people on the inside and the grand forces of nature on the outside. Here, even a single flower serves as a symbol of universal truth, providing the medium through which humans can become one with nature."


"A work of art is not fashioned by a person; rather it is the work of art that fashions one's life."


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I do certainly not want to spoil your pleasure, but some of your arguments seem too detailled to me. You have written about the aesthetical function of a window and too, that aesthetics are to maximize pleasure.

I wonder if one really can split things to that degree. I mean - not only here but in real life. The Lascaux drawings today are being understood as some kind of hunting magic. They are aesthetical, but have definitely something to do with survival. Same thing with decorated weapons. Yes, from a biological point of view, staring at Attila's naked woman just as well is pleasure and connected to survival (of man kind) in a a way.

Perharps we have to find another way of putting things together and set life as it is in the beginning. Back to the window as an example: You have this place, you want to show a plant there - so you need a window anyway. There is no question of leaving it away, it is simply about where to place it. The back wall? Too impertinent and light behind the tree is not good, too. A window in the roof? Would create a dungeon. So it has to be a sidewall.

So you have a basic problem (I need light) and an aesthetical impact on the solution (how much light from what direction). The same it is with the quoted examples of paintings: Do not only look at the composition in an intellectual way, please. No painter at that time would have dared to fill a canvas with abstract forms. It had to be possible and believable what he painted. The light had to come from somewhere and it had to be 'natural'. Well - that given you have not much of a choice. A window behind the persons would lead to light in your eyes, candles are not that bright and an outdoor situation does not show the wealth of the persons as probably desired by the client. So this window, that intellectually seems a very clever choice and almost philosophical, is in fact almost the only possibility to bring natural light into an indoor-composition!

An indirect proof for that you find in paintings from Georges de la Tour: This very carefully working painter found another way. On some of his paintings you see a person in the foreground, covering a candle which is the main light source. Like this, de la Tour could create very dramatic but still 'natural' scenes. The only problem is - a Tokonoma would not really look good like that. It would rather look like a campingfire under a big tree. All this does absolutely not exclude to see more behind it. Sure you can say: 'This window brings light and it also is a vehicle to unite interior and exterior'. But here again we are back in the caves of Lascaux, or not?


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Carl,

Part of my common sense approach arises from my professional background. This includes illustration as well. Sometimes I was allowed to work freely on splendid and phantastic illustrations, but most of the time I was just sketching so called 'scribbles' for the advertising business.

Scribbles are quickly drawn illustrations that never appear in the public. They serve to illustrate (literally) a situation that will later be one of these beautiful photographies we all know. Making scribbles brings you down to earth. Nobody wants art there. You have to be quick and ? most important ? the illustration has to remain 'general'. Both art director and photographer want to realise themselves and both do not want to discuss details with the client at that level.

This non-bonsai introduction is to show you, how I sometimes look at things and where part of my ideas come from. But now to the question of one or two windows: In fact I would never even have thought about two windows. Because of the years of scribbling that lay behind me. There you have a simple rule concerning 'outdoor-situations': light comes from one direction only. This is not because the sun shines from one point. When you go outside, you will find very complicated situations, light being reflected by bright walls or water surfaces. It could be 'natural' to have light from several sides. But when you scribble, it will hardly ever look good. Maybe this is because we KNOW the sun shines from one point only. Knowledge is a very strict censor to our comprehension sometimes. Too, we are not able to 'see' too much at a time. In a Tokonoma there is a tree, a little plant and a picture in the background. Three points ? another of my 'scribbler's rules' says: Three points are perfect. When I speak of 'points', this has a double meaning indeed: Either it can be a point in the sense of a location or a point in the sense of a 'value unit'. So a point can be a thing or an effect!.

Light in a Tokonoma is such an 'effect point', it is background, surrounding, but has a 'value'. But it should help the 'things' and not rival. So it must not be too complicated in itself. Looking at trees alone I find something similar: Some trees are unattractive, because every single design aspect has been styled up to the same importance. Thus moss, trunk, foliage, pot and jins speak to you at the same time in the same loudness like a bunch of kids reporting what went wrong. Right now, such a problem is being discussed ? the Dancing Crane's pot.

I like the idea of examinig the visual flow in a Tokonoma very much. Since I personally (or rather visually) always end up somewhere in the middle of the picture and do not search for an outlet (might be zen?), I started to think about other possible ways to understand the window.


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Last edited by Carl Bergstrom on Thu Sep 15, 2005 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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