Ding, dong, here he is again...Do you already know why you're dealing with bonsai?
l'm thinking and I found out that there are many reasons…probably there is no universal answer...as Harry in the comment of the first post mentioned, no rational answer. The different aspects of bonsai are the reasons that attract me. I suppose one interesting aspect of bonsai that attracts me is communication. Of course there are many other aspects...design, art, natural aspect, techniques,... but at the moment I find that communication is one particularly interesting aspect.
Bonsai communicates a story. One wise man, with whom I worked once, said: "It is impossible not to communicate"... true it’s not possible ....even if you are quiet you interact, so you communicate. Ok, that’s a good reason, we all love to communicate. And it’s a fact that bonsais communicate a story.
At exhibition bonsais are displayed with the accompanying plant and painted or calligraphic scroll (Kakemono). Each element has its role in the story, it’s a part of the message, which forms the whole story. The supporting plant or object shows the environment in which the tree lives, the image or calligraphy on the scroll is the second element which adds its part to the story and the bonsai is a central element of the story and via this we express, communicate something.
The challenge that I see here is as follows ...this is a way of expressing, that in Europe and around the world has been taken over from the Japanese, the Japanese from Chinese, but both of them had developed this way of communication and all the symbolism, through long history... for instance, Kanji symbols, there are more than 3,000 of them. Each such element has several meanings, than there are additional meanings of animal symbols, the whole ceremonial part of the presentation of bonsai like the role of Tokonama and the whole ceremony towards the visitors. Depending on the sequence and method of presentation they may have many different meanings... additional depth of symbolism, and the reasons for all this ware developed true a long tradition and history, which originated and has evolved from a need for this symbolism....here I see much added value, a way to make a deeper story.
In our area on the other hand the first association for the vast majority of people for the word bonsai is Bauhaus. They have many »bonsai« in Bauhaus… I admit, this is a bad example, the most possible extreme, which I basically don’t care about... but, the fact is that the perception of the most people in our part of the world is very different as in Japan. But on the other hand the fact is also that we create good bonsai, and we want to communicate good stories, a story which a “bonsai” from Bauhaus can’t tell.
So the main question is: “Do people who work with bonsai in Europe understand all this background, all of this deep meaning of symbolism, ceremonial parts of Bonsai?” Is it even necessary to understand to be able telling a good story? Does this perhaps imply that the stories are limited? Or the stories are only subject to other needs, cultural, artistic or even historical backgrounds. Perhaps this is the key to a good message and a good story.
Currently I dare to think that I understand that a good bonsai should be nicely integrated into one story, it has to have one red line. Pot, roots, trunk, each branch, crown, and various add-ons such as soil, moss,.... have to form one integrated design.
And that's it? I think that there has to be more than that ... this bonsai is interesting, this part of the tree is dead, because it was struck by lightning, it really has a good movement, which is nice and according to the rhythm of the movement of the crown, designed to the smallest detail, the tree is a provocative, it has character, its dynamic,... Great, all this must be, this is the "minimum", a very difficult and complex minimum to make and I need very much knowledge and experience to get at least there...but still I’m interested in what may be the added value of trees in our culture that is at least in my perception in Japan achieved with their entire complement of symbolism, ceremony and history.
So what can be added to the tree as extra depth of the whole image, the whole story?
The whole process of transformation from the starting material to final form?
This is certainly something that, at least me as a beginner, attracts very much ... but in the end we display only the final result.
The creator and his story, his artistic dimension?
Maybe a good bonsai consists of trees, pot and the creator, his stories, soul, creativity, artistic specialties,...
Idealization and perfectionism of all individual elements?
In works of almost all best artists in Europe, it is certainly clear ... every detail is finished to perfection and idealized.
To sum up and learn to understand the whole symbolism, ceremonies from Japanese or Chinese culture, history and include them in the story?
Almost certainly we can’t change this long tradition. At least in some parts this will always be a subject and therefore present.
Probably all this and much more is what adds value to the story of the tree, some additional depth, which hides some additional stories, meanings, complementary elements that have to be explored... and probably such trees are the ones that attract us most, make us observe them for a longer time, make us come back again and again....
And therefore this combination of aspects, methods and different elements each creator must find for him self... no matter where he lives and whom he communicates ... to find the way of telling his story ...aha, that's it.