Thursday, August 30, 2012

European spruce #8 Reiner the Bear

European spruce, Picea abies, collected in Switzerland in 1995.

First image as of 1998 when I acquired it. Then the deadwood was edited after the tree got into a reasonable bonsai pot. Third image as I showed it to the internet community.

This raised a major internet war. Reiner Goebel, the bonsai pope of the internet at that time, declared it the most ugly bonsai he had ever seen. I said that this was a compliment as art does have to beautiful, only must be impressive. Reiner at that time said that bonsai was not art. He said that this was back to the neolithicum, Macbonsai. And that I had very evil reasons for declaring it art. The community decided that I was not only a bad artist but a bad person altogether.

Unfortunately this tree never did well enough to ever show it on an exhibit. I would have really loved to show it on Gingko or Noelanders Trophy. It did not grow well and finally lost a real lot of green. I was afraid it would die. Anyway, I fed it like hell, let it grow freely in full sun shine and now it looked healthy enough for a second styling.

 Here we are, with a bright future I hope. I don't show my creations on the forums as I used to. I wonder how it would be accepted today. I think people would be rather relaxed about it. Anyway, bonsai has become an art form, even for the old fundamentalists.

If bonsai is an art form then a bonsai absolutely has no need to be beautiful, it has a need to leave a strong impression on the viewer.

Here is what I wrote in 2007 about this tree here on this blog:

"
This spruce has caused enormous turmoil on a couple of forums. On the IBC gallery Reiner Goebel declared it the biggest misunderstanding in the history of bonsai - right back to the stone ages. This was not always funny. It often has crossed the border to insult. Well, in hindsight it was that last big upheaval of the bonsai fundamentalists. It was only four years ago. But it seems so long ago. Then the fundamentalists did and could believe to be a majority. Times have changed and they are not a majority, that's for sure.

Fudamentalists know the truth, they know what is right and what is wrong. They are utterly inflexible and liberal is a curseword for them. This is a liberal bonsai, that's for sure. Nobody has to like it, but nobody should insult it.

So how much harm has this done to me, to the bonsai world? I think it has done me a lot of good. It has made me famous. Thank you Reiner. And it has changed the bonsai world - a bit. But not into the direction that Reiner thought of."


A guy who calls himself Luke Tulkas wrote this on the gardening forum. I think it was November of 2003: "Nobody's willing to bite in so here comes the prodigal... Luke. After all, even Reiner says that "one has to paint with bold colours". Reading a thread titled "The bear" on IBC gallery I was quite surprised by Reiner's responses. At first I would have sworn that someone is impersonating him, but when there came no denial I thought... hm, it really must be Reiner and I'll be darned if he doesn't have an attitude problem. We all have them from time to time, but Reiner being the "treasurer" and all, with his history of polite, well meaning posts... Strange, to say the least. If it were me, I'd get a public slap on the hand (by our ever watching moderator) in a second. Reiner, being an old geezer, is of course untouchable in this respect. Well, folks, that's about to change... We all know (more or less) that he has quite a conservative view of bonsai. Almost all of his trees (those that he shows anyway) are (informal) upright, almost all wannabepine shaped, absolutely no aerial roots, strictly glazed / coloured and shaped pots, etc. But that's his "taste". Who could blame him for that? After all we know that "de gustibus...", yes? Well, at least Reiner doesn't. Anyway... I'd like to point out a few inconsistencies (mildly put) in his reasoning. He says: "The age of the atrocity (referring to the deadwood parts of Walter's tree) has absolutely no bearing on its merit in the design of the bonsai!" Meaning: "Being an atrocity, it needs to come off." A few posts latter he says: "Pleasing only to those who know and appreciate the quality of care that has gone into creating the 'ideal' bonsai over so many years." (So age only matters when something "good" comes with it?!?) I'd add: "the quality of care" over "so many years" has nothing to do with the outcome - a "finished" bonsai. If it had, then the judges would need (and want) to know the whole story behind the "artifact". Moreover, the "quality of care" and "so many years" would bring valuable points to the final score. But do they? And do they? Directly I mean? The "quality of care" simply means that the tree has been "made" by some handicrafter and has nothing to do with the "artistical" merit. Reiner's narrow view of those merits and his recent outbreak on IBC indicate to me that he's gone down the typical handicrafter way: telling the artist that his art is no good. Very possibly because he (the handicrafter) finds out "after all those years" that he's merely a handicrafter. Being jealous of someone who, in the process, developed as an artist, too. Sad. Very sad. He also says: "I just stripped it of everything that makes it ugly." (referring to the removal of deadwood parts in his virtual of Walter's tree). I wonder if he'd also say the same about Kimura's trees. Would you, Reiner? In so many words as in "The bear"? With the "Nachtgeschirr" and all? And, BTW Reiner, if you think Kimura is classical then you'd better recheck your grip on reality. Identifying contemporary with crap is another of Reiner bright ideas. Well, Reiner, why don't we ban all the painters (and their paintings) after Leonardo or (if we're very very liberal) after Rembrandt? I mean, all the rest is just contemporary (read: crap), right? Hey, why don't we let the grafittists with their sprays into the museums and let them make on-site "virtuals" of post-Rembrandt paintings? About the arm twisting contest. To avoid this verbal agressiveness turn into a physical one, I suggest that you make it a pissing contest instead. We'll all need a good laugh after this thread comes to an end. (Better yet (so Jim doesn't jump to the ceiling)... before you stop sending me your responses _privately_.) Disclaimer (so you won't all have heart-attacks): I'm not saying that Reiner's trees are crapsai (copyright Reiner G.). I just can't "digest" his I-set-the-standards-the-rest-is-crap attitude. And before you ask... no, I haven't created any bonsai masterpieces. But I know a quality bonsai when I see one. In spite of what some handicrafters want us to believe, one doesn't have to be a hen to know a rotten egg from a good one."

9 comments:

Adam said...

Awesome. A delight to see. I think this is my new favorite tree on your blog. But I'm still just a kid, so what do I know?...

Sebastijan Sandev said...

This is one of better if not "THE BEST" spruce bonsai I know or I have ever seen. It is simply unique, powerful and fantasticly inspiring. Great tree. One of the best WP has. From one to ten...10.

Anonymous said...

I remember that on the IBC! That's hilarious... The Pope Of Bonsai. Your trees looked the best in the world to me then and still now.

Dave Kirkland said...

Many men have suffered much worse than painful insults because they apply reason in their life and decisions! Reason makes us unique amongst species, and is the basis of all advancements - why does it need more courage to apply than most men possess?
Luckily for the bonsai community, you have the courage Walter.

Anonymous said...

I had an encounter with Reiner online once. I found he had some superiority complex. But when I looked at his bonsai gallery I was perplexed why anyone would consider him a bonsai guru. His trees were nothing more than neatly trimmed nursery stock. After that, I just dismissed him as someone who was lonely and wanted abit of a banter. Infact I felt sorry for him instead. Now I found out that you had an encounter also with him.

Marc said...

Walter, would you agree if I would become the next bonsai pope? I always wanted to be a complaining and sneering cry baby! This tree looks very nice btw. You should exibit it some day soon.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that I've never liked or understood this tree. In fact, it is my most "un-favourite" tree I've seen of yours Mr. Pall and that's just my taste. And do you know something else? I would argue until next year for YOU to retain the right to like it and show it if that pleases you! As with all things artistic - "You can't please all the people, all the time" ;-)

Unknown said...

I haven't read your blog as often as used to a couple of years ago; however, two pines are apparently stuck in memory which calls for news every couple of months [Google keeps track better then I do]: #1 - hoping it hasn't changed beyond recognition, and this one - wishing it hatched already.

The hefty wood reminds Mateusz Grobelny's pots as is. Was one ever considered for this tree ?

Anonymous said...

Still my favourite pine of yours, Walter. My apologies for my country man Reiner. His taste is in his mouth.

How can people not love this masterpiece?

"The Bear" has such power and drama in its visual story; the fractured secondary trunk evokes the image some massive beast snapping it under its hulking weight. It is a perfect combination of ugly wreckage and noble struggling to survive.

The difference between Goebel's trees and yours is the difference between "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Rite of Spring." One is a simple, insipid, sweet little ear-wig that charmingly worms its' way into your heart and the other is a symphony of the horror and beauty of life itself.