"Suiseki - Kazari"

April 1st, 2014


 Had I said I was not willing to be so many weeks without any news? Oops, it happened again. Of course I have a pretext: in last 3 years I had made very few repottings, mainly due to an unfortunate coincidence between their season with unstable weather. Thus this year I decided to immerse to be updated: 148 repots in the first step (it is yet a second step guessed of 25/30 repottings for this month of April).

 “Wait, wait! Repottings? So do you have bonsai?”, some of you will ask. I am going to be sincere: I likely do not have any true bonsai, but only small trees that I try to care and develop according to bonsai guidelines. As a matter of fact I do not exhibit trees since quite years ago; maybe some day, if I consider any of them is worth to be called properly a bonsai.

Coming to the topic, 2014 is intended to be the year of ‘suiseki – kazari, at least for my own. Some of you will think I will continue to be the same tiresome as in previous years, while others will say that suiseki is ok, but what is about ‘kazari’?

Certainly, this Japanese word is being used in different ways, but they are always referred to decoration, exhibit or ambientation. In the fields of Japanese culture we are most  familiar with (bonsai, suiseki, ikebana, tea ceremony) it is related to the exhibition of these objects for appreciation. In a practical way, the goal is to properly arrange and display these objects according to Japanese aesthetic criteria, for their appreciation by other people.

And it is true: since some years on I am insisting in the reduced relevance is being given to this aspect in most exhibitions I attend or I am able to look at photos of. But it must be recognized I had limited almost exclusively to verbal comments and remarks. But this is the moment to start to put in writing my ideas on the topic, mainly coincident with ‘traditional’ ones, though not wholly coincident.

In this post I will only expose a handful of basic statements:

1.         There is no art without display

It is surprising that even many of those boasting full adherence to Japanese criteria (that they assume to be close to ‘compulsory laws’)  pay so little attention to those criteria in the display of their exhibitions. It should not be forgotten that the final goal of bonsai, suiseki or ikebana is to be used (exhibited) to achieve a unique unforgettable moment.

2.         Suiseki – kazari evidences distinctive features

Perhaps it is due to the scarcity of written material easily accessed and devoted exclusively to suiseki, but it is a trend to address straight to suiseki the guidelines for bonsai exhibition. Previously it is to be noted that many specialists and some bonsai masters use to focus mainly in cultivation and shaping of the plant, leaving display matters in a lower level.

Furthermore, it is just enough to look at a bonsai and at a suiseki of similar relevance and size class to realize that their visual characteristics are very different indeed. For instance, a suiseki of 60 cm (about 15 inches) fills a vertical area from 5 to 10 times smaller than a bonsai of the same width. Other instance, the color of suiseki is ever more uniform and dark than that of a bonsai. Hence, even rooted in a common set of principles, these will tend to materialize in a difference way according to the expressed and others dissimilarities.

3.         Present ‘tradition’ is actually modern

Everyone that had procured a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture with an historic approach will have quickly realized that, as every culture, it has evolved through the time and that aesthetic criteria in, let us say, XIX century were not the same that in XVII century; even more, that these criteria changed sharply from XV century to XVII century. Even he will likely perceived that Meiji era produced very relevant changes in all fields of Japanese culture, even those related to bonsai and suiseki; guidelines presently expressed as ‘traditional’ were actually set at the end of XIX century, adapting, purging and ‘re-building’ those previously applied.

4.         ‘Keido’ is a style but not the only style

It can not be denied the influence of ‘keido’ in the most refined  circles related to Japanese displaying arts and I find evident the influence of ‘zen’ and ‘shoin-tea’ in its statements. However, it is to be observed that keido is not applied always and in strictest way even in those circles. And of course, there are other aesthetic orientations rooted also in tradition and, though they are not organized as ‘school’, they are being also applied in Japan.

5.         Traditional static approach is not suited to present public exhibitions

Frequent invocations to tea ceremony (something is to be said on the difference between wabi-tea and shoin-tea) place Japanese https://www.viagrasansordonnancefr.com/ guidelines inspired on tradition as pursuing an extended contemplation of an individual exhibit. However, in present public exhibitions (Japanese or not) there is not enough neither time nor space for this type of appreciation; by the opposite, the visitor walks along the exhibition, occasionally stopping for some seconds in front of one of the exhibits, and then continues almost immediately. Under these circumstances, it makes sense to guess that these traditional guidelines will not be so effective and that they should to be revised and adapted once again.

From this ‘manifest’ it is not to be derived that I am against traditional guidelines.  It is just the opposite: we are to search in tradition the basic principles that inspired such guidelines in order to find the best way for applying them in present times.

Which are those basic principles? Not attempting to be exhaustive, I am just to mention:

-         Relevance of emptiness

-         Refinement emanating of a sober elegance

-         Age, patina

-         Asymmetry, naturalness

-         Simplicity, coherence, balance

-         Harmony without repetition

-         Suggestion related to nature

-         Impermanence of the moment

-         Season

Just to close with, I surrender you a couple of questions, to be considered for further exhibitions:

-         Do you think that tables for bonsai are equally suited for suiseki?

If your answer is ‘no’,

-         which are to look lighter?

-         which are to be higher?

-         About the benches on which bonsai and suiseki are placed, do you think they are to have same height? If your answer is ‘no’, which are to be lower?



Thursday, April 3, 2014