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Its been a busy start to the year and as a result the posts to this blog have been a little slow. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will get a bit more spare time and will be able to update more regularly.

One bonsai related thing I was able to attend was an exhibition that featured a work by Makoto Azuma. I am sure many of you have seen works by him already as they do pop up from time to time on various bonsai blogs and websites, but for those that don’t know of his work it may be worth having a look at his site linked above.

His work is interesting from a bonsai perspective because he creates botanical sculptures that challenge ideas of controlled growth, display and the interaction between nature and man. His works often utilise bonsai in various states, frozen, dissected and scientifically maintained.

In the case of the exhibition I visited he had created a sealed container that automated all phases of a plants growth, and in this case the plant happened to be a bonsai which in its self had been highly manipulated to create its form.

The contained bonsai

The contained bonsai

The container watered the bonsai, controlled the fertiliser, humidity, temperature, airflow and light that the bonsai received while also serving as a means of displaying the bonsai in what almost looks like a museums scientific glass specimen case.

Humidity and temperature monitor.

Humidity and temperature monitor.

Although the bonsai inside the case was not the best example of a black pine I have seen, what I did find interesting was the way that when a bonsai was displayed inside a container that made visible all the manipulations to growing conditions that modern practices use, it highlighted the stylistic manipulation that we as bonsai growers do and that the plant inside the box had received. It really got me thinking about what it is we do as bonsai artists.

So often the discussion about our art revolves around styling differences and the bonsai it-self. I tend to think that the display arrangement and or the environment in which it is displayed says as much about the overall composition as whether or not you subscribe to ‘natural’ or ‘cookie cutter’ schools.

The bonsai in a box.

The bonsai in a box.

It is interesting that when you see this exhibit that the bonsai takes somewhat of a back seat in the overall composition and the object as a whole (glass case, bonsai and gallery room) all work together to present what was to me a new way of looking at the art we do.

Will you see similar displays at your local show any time soon? Probably not. But it does raise interesting questions about how we present our trees and in turn what stories those presentations tell. What can our bonsai represent? What does combining our trees with other objects say?  Perhaps it is time to start thinking outside the box in terms of what it is we wish to convey to the viewer when we exhibit out bonsai and try something outlandish from time to time.  If you look at contemporary art, the space and arrangement of the art objects is as important as the objects themselves and perhaps it is this aspect that we as bonsai artists struggle with.

I recently visited MONA in Tasmania and came across a room full of tribal masks. Each mask was lit by spot light which alternated from one to another in an otherwise dark room. After flicking through several masks the light stopped on a Picasso portrait. It was this juxtaposition between the masks and the portrait that hinted at where the Picasso painting had possibly taken its inspiration from. It had combined many works that individually were all impressive in their own right into a collection of works that once combined told the viewer more that what the individual works could tell on their own. An interesting concept when thinking about bonsai display.

For those wishing to see it ‘in the bark’ the exhibition is on until the 20th of this month at ‘Broached East‘ gallery Level 7 388 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Australia. If your in the area I think it is well worth a visit.

Some more info about the show is HERE


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