Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Autumn is here...

It has been a while since the last post and I have been up to a few things, including another outing. This last weekend saw an interesting event in Crawley, namely Bonsai World 2011. It was the first time it had been held and was a good weekend, I got to meet up with the usual suspects and catch up, have a chat and look at some trees. There were some lovely trees on show, some at a high level, others not so, but all well presented and everyone had fun with it, which lets face it, is the point of doing bonsai. It was a well put together show and congratulations to all involved.

In an unusual turn of events I chose to put on a display, a favourite tree of mine was just about ready to go and it seemed appropriate to get it out. Although not quite in colour, there is a hint of red coming through there and it is perfect for the season as we are just about to start autumn and soon the leaves around us will be on fire...not literally I hope. The tree I displayed has previously been seen at a never to be repeated exhibition up North a couple of years ago around the same time. It is a sadly not often seen variety outside of Japan and one of my favourite trees...this Sumac or to be a bit more specific, Rhus succedanea.

It is potted in a Shidei or purple clay Chinese pot from around 100 years ago, there is no seal but it is a Meiji period design. It has been well used and has developed a good patina around the whole pot without sustaining any significant damage. It has taken on quite a shine which does not come from oiling the pot up before exhibiting which is something I am not keen on. The black lacquered board it is displayed on is the same one used in my Joy of Bonsai display a while back. I do have other boards, including a bamboo one I did think of using but it seemed slightly unseasonal and also clunky. The simplicity of the black rectangle appealed to me...and both Apple and Samsung apparently.

Only one person asked me why I didn't use an accent or a scroll, and the answer was that it didn't need it. The space was small enough as it was and the feel of the tree would have been destroyed if there was anything else going on there. To have created a busy display which conformed to a three item combination would have destroyed the simplicity of the tree and left it feeling mechanical and contrived. I had an ideal early autumn scroll but it was slightly too long and the colour too much of a contrast against the white back drop. It was a shame as I wanted to use it. I was happy to be on the end of the row as the extra space next to the display was helpful. It also helped to have some stones on the other side so I wasn't over powered by some massive tree.

The art of bonsai display is the art of successfully using space to create the impression of something larger than what is seen with the eyes. Space can be oppressive if seen with preconceptions of "tree, scroll, accent", there is a desire to fill it up. If freed from such self imposed conventions, the space can be liberating, allowing the viewer to imagine.

I am not sure how the displays that I have done in the past have been taken and I don't know if people expect for me to be displaying big impressive trees to show off my skills and professionalism and win prizes. I personally take the opportunity to show that there are alternatives, different aesthetic ideas and motivations for doing bonsai...

And then show off on the Blog.

Thanks to everyone at the show for making it fun, but especially to Simon Haddon who let me use his camera because I typically forgot mine.

If you think all the above is a bit pretentious and speaking in riddles, it's because I have been reading some books. Aye...proper ones. Been very enlightening.

"He who only knows, without seeing, does not understand the mystery. Even should every detail of beauty be accounted for by the intellect, does such a tabulation lead to beauty? ...The scholar of aesthetics...tries to make seeing proceed from knowing, but this is a reversal of the natural order. The eye of knowledge cannot, thereby, see beauty"

from The Unknown Craftsman by Yanagi Soetsu

So does that mean I wasted all my time reading books?

"A man should avoid displaying deep familiarity with any subject...it is impressive when a man is always slow to speak, even on subjects he knows thoroughly, and does not speak at all unless questioned."

from Tsurezuregusa or Essays in Idleness by Kenko

Oh...I will shut up then.


  1. interesting , thank you for posting , cant remember if I was at that event up North ! sounds like last weekend was good !

    but carry on reading , you might larn summit

  2. Hi Peter,
    I'm not familiar with Rhus, is this the same variety of tree shown on the front cover of the latest Bonsai Focus? Stunning Autumn colour.

    Looks like I'll be seeing you at Willowbog at the end of the month. I look forward to meeting you.