Andy Rutledge wrote:
Of course! It must be understood that these exhibitions are contests of craft, not art. These contests and books are not put on or published for artistry. Rather, they're endeavor-specific exercises in craft.
I sincerely hope that we don't start trying to equate what is done in contests with what is appropriate for artistry. Merely pointing to the Japanese and noting that the large scale events they put on do not jive with the particulars of formal artistic display is a non sequitur. Apples and oranges, folks.
Art involves craft. Great art involves great craft. But contests of craft and artistic exhibition are not the same thing. Let's not be too smart by half! Yes, let's have vigorous and beefy discussion/debate/argument here, but let's not use irrelevant data to support our contention.
Oh dear, not the art versus craft debate, how I hate that dreary and pass' argument - you might as well debate which came first the chicken or the egg. And I don't think you can dismiss the thesis that bonsai themselves are the art with a wave of the hand like that.
In reading the title of this site 'Artofbonsai.org' I interpreted it as this site was about the Art of Bonsai which to me means the bonsai are the art. In my mind there is no doubt creating bonsai takes great artistic ability, and great technical skill. In order to display this artistry requires placing a well executed bonsai in a position such that the tree (and its pot) can be appreciated. A bonsai displayed properly (eye level, clean pot, good surface treatment such as nice moss, and a uncluttered background) can communicate on many levels and as such accomplishes the goal of the artistry.
A bonsai does not need the other little artifacts of the three point display to give it presence nor to help it communicate. In fact, the other artifacts will usually give a different message than if the bonsai were alone. It seems the goal with a three point display is to communicate a landscape at some level. But I contend that bonsai on their own can communicate much more than a landscape. They can evoke a whole variety of human emotions. In fact, I am writing a book about this.
Bonsai display with other artifacts pleasing as it may be pales in comparison to the art required to envision and execute the tree. I would go as far to say that there is very little artistry in creating a traditional three point (or two point) display. It to me is the same as Andy's critique of Crisco's art installation. The other artifacts are merely decoration aimed at establishing some perceived milieu
And as Andy has said 'Great art requires great craft' - where is the great craft in a three point bonsai display' Give a gaggle of monkeys a great bonsai, an accent plant and a scroll and sooner or later they will place the objects in a position that professional critics find pleasing. Those same monkeys will never take a plant and fashion a bonsai from it because bonsai art takes foresight, artistic vision, technical skill, and patience.
Finally, for time being, I will discount the Kokfuten yearbooks, since Andy claims they come from a result of competition and hence disqualify them from art - (which to me is an illogical.) But the other books I mentioned, "Masterpieces of Bonsai" edited by Yoshio Takayanagi, and "Classic Bonsai of Japan" by the Nippon Bonsai Association, and even other books such as 'Bonsai - Art of Living Sculpture' by Jack Douhitt and Colin Lewis' 'Art of Bonsai Design' are not a product of bonsai competition but rather purposely written to delve into the bonsai as art. These books focus on the trees as well they should.