Sunday, 10 November 2013

when life impregnates art

"When life impregnates Art" was an amazing T shirt I bought at Mambo Headquarters in Sydney Australia a very long time was true Mambo - Original art by Reg Mombassa,  risque for the time - the mambo dog dry humping the statue of Micheal Angelo........I wore it to the point of disintegration so must have got 10 yrs out of i know the final burial should have been in a frame to depict ten years of my traveling surfing beach based life, but the memory of the T shirt lives on so all is good...................

........leap forward 24 years and the title has finally found an equally fitting scenario - A brave and very personal exhibition by my friend Peter has been staged this week in London under the title Natural Flux at the Brick Lane Gallery. It is a collaboration of bonsai art from Peters own trees combined with ceramic art from several artists, with a sprinkle of sculpture, some very high class photography and a jaw dropping pencil drawing - then you add in wood work, forging, smithing, printing and plinth construction to finally produce a finished exhibition!

I drove up from Cornwall with an open mind, setting off at 3.30am, completing a little bonsai@16  stock buying on the way to finally walk in mid morning. I purposely brought no camera - the true essence of the show for me was to appreciated it in real life, 3D, not a frozen image depicting 500th of a second from a supposed 'front', and I didn't want to reduce the real art to a small selection of low res internet images. Also I feel the people who go for real deserve the experience first hand but a blog with no pics is a bit too much like hard work for some so I've pinched a few pictures from other web sources.

Fine Art has universal acceptance from a wide audience


Bonsai has a somewhat mysterious, secretive, even insular image - within the hobby we feel it is artistic but the public perception is far closer to 'strange gardening practices' than understandable artwork. Why? I think it is the sometimes stuck in a rut slavish way we feel we have to style the tree, pot the tree, display the tree in a set way, in a set place.......following rules that work within our (bonsai) world but mean nothing to the wider audience. Take a sharp intake of breath now ......potentially, if not done very well a traditional bonsai in a traditional correct pot can appear quite boring to someone hoping to see an artform. Natural flux has taken publicly accepted art - (the ceramics, sculpture, photography) - and married it with a lovely collection of bonsai trees - none macho, few commonly seen in our UK scene, and placed them in the heart of an area that really appreciates true art for its uniqueness - I probably spent 4 or 5 hours absorbing the two rooms and revisiting the displays - there were some instantly impressive pieces - the larger, brighter, more intricate artworks, but they actually lacked 'calmness' and I found myself revisiting the simple trees, the clever and balanced pot/tree combinations more often.

Sitting here now I can still see the displays in my minds eye, the curved pot with very simple young beech sapling remains clearly in mind, the Sessile Oak in a Jo Woffinden concrete pot was so balanced and natural I have bought it for our collection here in Cornwall. The subtle details - variation in soil surface, the tree is slightly off center but OMG it is on the 'wrong' side of the pot to get the purists turning in their forthcoming graves, the bark is superb in such a small tree that it needed the power of textured concrete to equal it. Imagine this tree in delicate fluid porcelain - it wouldn't work ....the Oak is the solid strong backbone of everything that is British so the composition is truly balanced

The distinct contrast in ceramic choice has left a profound impression - Claire Wakefields work was detailed, fluid, organic and was easy to 'see' . I feel this piece makes bonsai art appreciation easy for the wide audience - it's coastal, wave battered and a lovely combination of rosemary and ceramic

Then we come to a far more subtle combination - using concrete Jo Woffinden has created pots you want to pick up, rub, touch.....the concrete pots are robust and powerfull in contrast to the delicate nature of the one above

Here we have a 'traditional' one - a lovely juniper, an antique pear skin pot, but displayed and viewed from the trees best front - not the pots front. We had a really interesting chat about the physical restraints that the material tree may impose on us - sometimes the roots and buried trunk sections on wild material will not fit into a pot at the angle we want it to. There are options like use the wrong pot so it fits in, use a 2nd best viewing angle for the tree so it can be viewed from the traditional pot front.....but then the question is why ? the right tree, the right pot,who says if it is right or wrong to view is off center 

An excellent exhibition - it worked on every level and has shown a different view of bonsai that actually has achieved wider appeal than formal rows of trees on tables with cloth backdrops. The beauty of our hobby is that there is a place for both types of exhibition - but I think for one artistic individual to showcase their trees this show wins hands down. I hope there is another, I hope there is a book, I'm so glad I made the effort to attend the first one and it was great to meet and chat with a few like minded people - it was a refreshing day that restored my faith in part of our bonsai scene

The art of noise - moments in love

Sunday, 3 November 2013

it's in there somewhere

This tree was dropped round recently by a customer for a complete styling session. It is a quite unusual 5 trunk juniper group formed many years ago so the trunks are all well fused together now but as you can see the foliage has remained basically unstyled. The tree has been kept very healthy and the foliage has been kept nice and compact by nipping off all the strong extension shoots but doing nothing but this results in the pom pom type foliage blobs forming over time.

Here is the tree with its current front as it was dropped off

first impressions - 1) you cant tell there are 5 trunks, 2) the apex is behind the center point

This is the current back of the tree

All the foliage masses were thinned out and wired, then they were broken up into smaller elements. One guy wire was needed to move the 5th trunk into view and here is the result of the first styling.

It is very important not to massively reduce foliage on junipers in one hit so the new smaller pads retain a reasonable amount of green bits. Now we can see it is a 5 trunk tree and the trunk movement is nicely exposed.

There is one more sitting of fine wiring to do in the future but for now the tree can rest