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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Critique: The Maleficent Tree
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"But we still base our understanding of "bonsai" on the Japanese model. So far, this has given the world the most beautiful miniature trees, so why shouldn't we?

Whether it is right or wrong to adhere to the Japanese model, and the way it evolves, can only be shown by the bonsai that are produced. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm waiting to see what's going to be served for desert in the coming years. "

This thinking has produced alot of tired, uninspired, trite bonsai in Japan. Alot of those Japanese trees wear the "emperor's new clothes," so to speak. The basic designs used in alot of classic those trees haven't changed much. There is very little innovation there, expect for the "Pop Bonsai" stuff--which is kind of amusing, but ultimately fluff.

The Japanese are excellent studies and terrific at reproducing intricate designs. I used to work for a big Japanese company. There engineers are ingenious, world class in their abilities. However, when it came to original design and innovation, they were not so keen. The company I worked for was using designs of U.S. origin for their equipment. They offered only high-end bells whistles types of add ons to what was basically an American-designed core. The machines were great in quality and production. But, if you wanted to get a product that broke new ground and offered new capabilities, you had to look to the U.S. and Europe. The Japanese didn't care about making the next break through in design, only in tweaking the design they had

That's what happened with alot of Japanese bonsai, I think. They are replicas of each other. Yes, the trees produced by the Japanese are beautiful. They make those trees wonderfully, but they've been basically making the SAME trees for about 50 years--take a look at the Kokufuten albums. Those trees look alot alike, especially the pines. You see alot of the same designs, or the almost exact same design solutions, appearing again and again and again--yeah the design solution are used because they work, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Don't get me wrong. The trees made in Japan are beautiful, but why do I start getting the "thousand yard stare" looking through the umpteenth Kokufuten or whatever Japanese exhibition album? While a short jaunt through a gallery of Nick Lenz's trees, or Italian, or U.K. artists can be like a brisk walk through the woods? It's because looking at the same thing for such a long time, is boring. Trees like this may not be classic bonsai and are looked down upon by the bonsai hoi poloi, but at least they're interesting and a breath of fresh air.

Sorry but you will get no dessert if you look only to Japanese trees for your bonsai meal. You will only get the same very well done, but increasingly bland vegetables, warmed over and over and over...


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