Thursday, September 3, 2015

International Bonsai Atumn Meeting at Ibuki in Poland

We will make this a Bonsai Academy weekend. Everybody is invited. It is more a party than a seminar.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dear Arthur, Dear Walter #1

 An Open Letter To Walter Pall 8/28/15 


IBC forum
Post  Arthur Joura on Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:57 am
Hello Walter,

It was good to see you stop by here the other day during the discussion that took place following my article about Dan Robinson. The tone of the conversation must have seemed familiar to you: false accusations, aspersions, impassioned defense of things not actually under attack, over-the-top responses to ideas apparently not actually understood. I can remember very well some years back when it seemed you were constantly embroiled in such discussions on various Internet bonsai forums. You were writing about topics such as Naturalism in bonsai, the difference between bonsai as art and bonsai as craft, the meaning of tradition in Western bonsai thinking, and the like, and the responses you received were very often negative, even viscerally so. Often it turned ugly and you were being personally insulted by the people who disagreed with you, but you were always quite game about it. You gave back as good as you got. For me, the ideas you were putting forth made a great deal of sense and I was initially taken aback by the anger and vitriol with which they were often met. I reasoned that some of it had to do with people's opinion of you on a personal level, that they were reacting more to the assertive and self-assured way you said things and less to what was being said. I think you are one of those individuals who takes some degree of satisfaction being the fly in other people's ointment, the sand in other people's shorts, but naturally other people do not appreciate that sort of thing. These days, however, I tend to think the implications of what you were saying also truly disturbed people, and the fact that they perceived you as personally irritating just made it easier to reject both you and your wrongheaded ideas as one disagreeable package.

Those days of raucous on-line debate are mostly all gone now. There seems to be little life left in the Internet forum format, with much of the conversation shifting to Facebook or individual blogs where it becomes more controlled and exclusive, and I think this is unfortunate. The freewheeling dialogue of the public forum, sloppy and low as it oftentimes gets, is such a democratic thing. Anyone with an Internet connection can weigh in and although there is a mountain of stuff best ignored there is also the nugget of potential for a good exchange of ideas from a world full of minds, and it is all out there where it can be accessed and engaged with by anyone. Beyond the demise of the forum format, though, I think you personally must have gotten a little weary of trying to reason with the on-line bonsai community, or maybe you became bored with answering the same old arguments over and over. For whatever reason you are no longer the vibrant presence on the Internet you once were. You have your excellent web site, of course (http://walter-pall-bonsai.blogspot.com/), and there readers will find many of your techniques, thoughts and ideas carefully written out and lavishly illustrated. But the living breathing on-line now Walter Pall, the one who saunters out into the great electronic forum of public discourse and in a way both challenging and nonchalant cheerfully offers the world a bite of his sacred cow sandwich, that guy is rarely heard from any more.

Who can blame you, really. You have been there and done that and now you are older and have become venerable and spend your days traveling the world being entertained as a celebrity, all the while keeping your blog as a way of sharing your ongoing bonsai adventure with those who care to know about it, and who needs to go through the trouble of explaining it all one more time? I am partly kidding of course. I know that in the professional bonsai world there is none who exceeds you in willingness to engage with those who are interested, and no one who articulates his ideas more clearly or willingly (or forcefully.) I know this because I have had ample opportunity over the years to talk with you at length, one on one and face to face. I also know that any time I want I can write to you and engage you in a bonsai conversation, and you will take the time to write a thoughtful response. So I am doing that now, but instead of sending you an e-mail I am writing in the public forum. This is not so much an attempt to conduct an on-line interview as it is to have a personal conversation, a private exchange of thoughts, but to do it out in the open. Maybe no one else will care to follow such a conversation, but if they do they can find it here. That is, if you choose to reply.

Having invited you to this collaboration I should put something on the table to be a starting point of the discussion. Given the flurry of excitement generated by the account of my visit with Dan Robinson and the opinions it contained regarding the subject of Naturalism in bonsai, a natural starting point would be to discuss Naturalism in bonsai. You have written extensively about this in the past, and those who are interested enough can and should read all about it here:http://walterpallbonsaiarticles.blogspot.com/2010/09/naturalistic-bonsai-style-english.html There is no point in having you reiterate what you have already written, but I have a couple of questions I would ask you expanding on your existing statements. First, I wonder if you have distilled your thoughts to the point yet where you can give a more concise definition of naturalistic bonsai? Your published article about it is a definitive answer but it takes a few thousand words to make its case. What is the most simple and refined answer you can give to a bonsai person who asks you to define naturalistic bonsai?

Also, I am interested to know how you came to the point where you decided the naturalistic style was appealing to your tastes. There are 3 professionals I most admire for their ability to do outstanding bonsai work in a naturalistic vein: Dan Robinson, Qingquan Zhao from China, and you. My impression is that Dan could not do bonsai any other way than the way he does - he is following an individualistic impulse and no other way would make sense or be of interest to him. Mr. Zhao's most famous work is grounded in a traditional school of Penjing design - Water and Land - that is realistic in its conception. His work is naturalistic, but he was trained in that style to begin with. You, I know from reading your biographical information, began in bonsai the same way as most Westerners, which is to say you were copying the design concepts promoted by the Japanese artists and teachers. Somewhere along the way you consciously decided to break with that and pursue other ideas. How did you come to that decision and why were you attracted to Naturalism?

I suppose I am far enough out on a limb with this idea as I ought to go. If you have any interest in this particular sport please make your response and we will go from there. If not, please accept my apologies for disturbing your tranquility!

Arthur




Dear Arthur,

Arthur Joura wrote:It was good to see you stop by here the other day during the discussion that took place following my article about Dan Robinson. The tone of the conversation must have seemed familiar to you: false accusations, aspersions, impassioned defense of things not actually under attack, over-the-top responses to ideas apparently not actually understood.
Oh yes, I remember so well and don't feel like I am longing for it again. Guess why I am absent from bonsai forums by and large.

  These days, however, I tend to think the implications of what you were saying also truly disturbed people, and the fact that they perceived you as personally irritating just made it easier to reject both you and your wrongheaded ideas as one disagreeable package.

I have come to the same conclusion. I think it is that thy were under the impression that I pulled the rug out underneath their feet and they felt that what I wrote was much more dangerous than anything else on the net. They must have felt that I write this to devastate them and the bonsai world. Well, I did not write it for personal reasons but it had some devastating impact. Now, twenty to fifteen years later many things that I wrote are now accepted and some have become almost mainstream. The old fundamentalists have disappeared one by one, some for natural reasons m, many because they suddenly felt not to be the majority anymore. Some may have come to the conclusion that they were wrong in their judgment. Anyway, they almost disappeared and I don't miss them much.

Arthur Joura wrote:Those days of raucous on-line debate are mostly all gone now. There seems to be little life left in the Internet forum format, with much of the conversation shifting to Facebook or individual blogs where it becomes more controlled and exclusive, and I think this is unfortunate. The freewheeling dialogue of the public forum, sloppy and low as it oftentimes gets, is such a democratic thing.
The good thing about blogs and facebook is that one can directly control the feedback. This is not democratic but very effective. Democracy on public forums? Well if it means that any fool can say anything any time and this is democracy, then it is so. Democracy means that we are all the same. Meaning that WP says something that he has thought about for thirty years. and then someone who has thought about if for thirty seconds answers and we are even. Is that what it means?

I think you personally must have gotten a little weary of trying to reason with the on-line bonsai community, or maybe you became bored with answering the same old arguments over and over. For whatever reason you are no longer the vibrant presence on the Internet you once were. You have your excellent web site, of course (http://walter-pall-bonsai.blogspot.com/), and there readers will find many of your techniques, thoughts and ideas carefully written out and lavishly illustrated. But the living breathing on-line now Walter Pall, the one who saunters out into the great electronic forum of public discourse and in a way both challenging and nonchalant cheerfully offers the world a bite of his sacred cow sandwich, that guy is rarely heard from any more.
Well, after all these years is is very hard to come up with some argument that I have not heard a hundred times before and have answered a hundred times. The Internet is full of folks who are perfectly able to write long messages but somehow they cannot read, it seems. And then there is the thing with personal attacks that you mentioned. When they run out of arguments and have nothing to say anymore about the matter they beat the person. Problem is the asymmetry of insults. What is this? Well, in Germany I can say that Angela Merkel is a silly bitch - and nothing will happen. If Angela Merkel says that Walter Pall is an arrogant a..hole the world will cry out loud. Not that I would to compare myself with Angela Merkl, but somehow I have become a public figure and it is OK to insult public figures. Some hate folks who are above them. So they hate me. I am an easy target. Why in the world should I offer myself voluntarily as a target?

Arthur Joura wrote:You have written extensively about this in the past, and those who are interested enough can and should read all about it here:http://walterpallbonsaiarticles.blogspot.com/2010/09/naturalistic-bonsai-style-english.html There is no point in having you reiterate what you have already written, but I have a couple of questions I would ask you expanding on your existing statements. First, I wonder if you have distilled your thoughts to the point yet where you can give a more concise definition of naturalistic bonsai? Your published article about it is a definitive answer but it takes a few thousand words to make its case. What is the most simple and refined answer you can give to a bonsai person who asks you to define naturalistic bonsai?

Naturalistic bonsai vs. what generally is known as bonsai is like the difference between realistic and abstract painting. Naturalists try to create something that looks like a genuine tree. General bonsaiists try to create something that looks like a bonsai. And they are not aware oif it.

Arthur Joura wrote:Also, I am interested to know how you came to the point where you decided the naturalistic style was appealing to your tastes. There are 3 professionals I most admire for their ability to do outstanding bonsai work in a naturalistic vein: Dan Robinson, Qingquan Zhao from China, and you. My impression is that Dan could not do bonsai any other way than the way he does - he is following an individualistic impulse and no other way would make sense or be of interest to him. Mr. Zhao's most famous work is grounded in a traditional school of Penjing design - Water and Land - that is realistic in its conception. His work is naturalistic, but he was trained in that style to begin with. You, I know from reading your biographical information, began in bonsai the same way as most Westerners, which is to say you were copying the design concepts promoted by the Japanese artists and teachers. Somewhere along the way you consciously decided to break with that and pursue other ideas. How did you come to that decision and why were you attracted to Naturalism?

Starting around 1979 up until the late 1980ies I tried to learn as much as I could about bonsai and tried to make something that looked like a `good' bonsai. What a good bonsai was I learned from books, mainly from John Naka I and II, but also from the books of Peter Adams. Often I did not succeed in creating what I was aiming at. This was mainly because of my lack of skills but also, what I was not aware of, the nature of my material. I was one of the very first guys in Europe to go to the mountains and forests and collect stuff. Then I tried to tame it. Often these shrubs just did not lend themselves to a 'good' bonsai design. But somehow they still intrigued me. By the end of the 1980ies I started to look for more than I could find in books. In 1987 at the BFF Convention in Birmingham, UK I met Dan Robinson and had a long discussion with him. He was the first one to open my eyes about there being something else than the rules. Then there was the famous saying of John Naka along the lines 'don't try to make your tree look like a bonsai, rather make your bonsai look like a tree'. This really meant a lot to me. I was puzzled, however to not find too much of this in John Naka's work.

So I went on for a few years doing what I 'knew' was the 'right' way to do bonsai. But I was not so sure many times. I started wondering why in the world I was sitting in my garden, creating a bonsai and when looking up I saw trees which did not at all look like this bonsai. Why in the world was I not allowed to copy these large trees? Well, it was made very clear to me by the bonsai establishment that it was blasphemy to only think about it.

Around 1994  I had become in touch with articles about the work of Kimura. They intrigued me after a period of repulsion. I met Salvatore Liporace, who was assistant of Kimura for a while and he influenced me in working like the master. This, I felt  immediately, was VERY different from what up to that time was considered proper, meaning 'classical' bonsai. By the mid-1990ies I was one of the first ones in my area who made what I now call modern bonsai. I started to frown upon what the world around me still was doing, feeling that it became more old fashioned every day. It is called 'neoclassical bonsai' or 'western classical bonsai'. Many do it still today and still think it is the 'right' way to do. I now had two kinds of trees in my collection: the old-fashioned neoclassical ones which I had created up to then, and then the modern ones. At that time I collected a lot, a hundred trees in a year was normal. I found that it was not so easy to find the 'right' way to treat this material. Sometimes they lent themselves to a more classical style, sometimes they were just right for the quite different modern style. And sometimes I did not know how to treat them. I really liked some features, but they were 'wrong'. More and more I worked on these trees in a way to try to forget what I knew about bonsai and create some realistic tree. I leaned to enhance the features that I liked instead of idealizing trees more and more and getting rid of the natural features. Anyway, I had found my style. But it was not comfortable in the bonsai scene. People who saw my new creations frowned upon them and voiced their dislike clearly, as is the custom on Europe. I learned to just go on and try to ignore the opinions of the bonsai scene. I liked what I did and I become something of a bonsai-hermit because (believe it or not) I hate to argue with people. I hate to try to convince them of what I am doing if they don't find out themselves.

My trees got better, the old ones and the new ones. I was accused of bad work when I showed my new creations and I was admired when I showed what I thought was old-fashioned. Modern bonsai by the late 1990ies had become sort of mainstream in Europe and I was in the middle of it with some creations. But I somehow did not feel so attracted to this anymore as I used to be. My coming out on the Internet made a big change in the world wide exposure. I was admired an accused at the same time. I learned to defend myself. While I thought and still think that the Internet can be a terrible place to be it really has made me famous. And it has tremendously sharpened my arguments. I know that they were just waiting out there for me to make a wrong move and fall all over me like hyenas. All my opponents from that time, as much as I haded them often, have helped me to became better in my work and better in arguing about it.

In the beginning, being so much on the defensive side I was fighting for the acceptance of naturalism in bonsai. But in my actual work I found that often I did something that would  be classified classical, neo-classical, modern, Penjing, naturalistic, fairy-style or what have you. I found that  I had learned to see a piece of material and make whatever this piece was crying for to be regardless of what the style is called. Now I think one can very well do all styles in parallel and still be an integer artist. It is  not like religion. You don 't have to make a principal choice. You can do everything in parallel.

Recently I found that many of my newest creations somehow fall out of any norm that I had known. While some hated them a lot some loved them a lot as I do. I call these Fairy Tale Bonsai . When I wrote articles on the net about this two years ago I 'knew' that they would tear me to pieces and crucify me again. But they did not. Something has changed. i am still not sure what it is, but I have the feeling that the bonsai scene has learned to be tolerant, to accept the creations of others even if they are not in your own taste.

I lead a workshop recently and as usual did a lot of talking and explaining and philosophizing. A young man said 'Mr. Pall, why are you so defensive, why are you so much defending mainstream bonsai?'. I realized that he was under the impression that Naturalistic Bonsai Style had become mainstream. Bless him!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wild Pear #1

After repotting three weeks ago in the middle of August this tree responds with very early fall color. This is a good sign. It shows that the tree is fully functioning. Contrary to what most people believe mid-August I consider the best time to repot most trees in my climate.
I am happy about the choice of pot now - It goes so well with the orange foliage. Now some small white  flowers in May and some small fruit in September and this would be the perfect bonsai.
















Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Oriental hornbeam #59

Next year the crown will be wired











Oriental hornbeam #56

Next year the crown will be wired