UBI 2014, Torino (Italy)


Journeys produce a striking effect: they let you  to leave behind the intensity and worries of daily routines and get you immersed in another different (ir)reality, but when they are gone, you have to effort to come back to the ordinary. At least, this is true for me.


From 10 to 14, April, the 2014 UBI (Unione Bonsaista Italiana) Congress has been held in Torino, Italy. Though UBI Congress is a national event, it is one of the best known in Europe. This year edition gathered in addition to well known Italian masters (Liporace, Bandera, Pappalardo, Stemberger) other significant artist as Kevin Wilson and Craig Coussins. Furthermore, the trade zone included stalls from Italy, CzeckRepublic, Slovakia and Spain (Medibonsai), as far as I remember.


The event was held in a large tent, placed in Vittorio Veneto square, enough to keep not only the bonsai and suiseki exhibition, but the space for demos and lectures. Gala dinner was held inside the Musseo del Risorgimento, within Palazzo Carignano.


Suiseki exhibition contained only 12 items, though of an average high level, with some outstanding stones. I was particularly pleased by the interest expressed by the exhibitors about composition: the goal is not so much to display a stone but to suggest a scene or moment through a proper of the different elements and that anything looks useless or redundant. Other issue I appreciated was the care for the cleanliness of the displays. The most unpleasant fact was the ‘dissapearing’ of two bronze tenpai; it is very sad to realize how some people take off something that they will likely are unable to appreciate, instead of enjoy the beauty of the displays; these attitudes may impede other people be able to enjoy in the future.


In the exercise of my duties as judge, I was allowed by organizers to apply ‘my method’ of three steps: stone, support, composition. If anyone does not know, the method is as follows:


Step 1:     Stones are assigned quality grades from A (top) to E (bottom); very often three levels (A, B, C) are enough. Quality depends on material, color, shape, ‘patina’ and … cleanliness.

Step 2:     Stands (daiza) and trays are graded in the same way. Quality depends on finish, care and color and shaping matching to the stone.

Step 3:     The same grade critérium is applied to the composition as a whole. Special attention is paid to the table/slab, arrangement of the elements and the use of the space.


Cuando la exposición es reducida, como en este caso, aplico las tres fases a todas las piedras. De esta forma, cada piedra obtiene una calificación que se parece a la de las agencias de calificación de valores (AAA, ABB, BAA, BCC, …); por ejemplo, ABB es mejor que BAA. Si lo que hay que evaluar es la mejor presentación, la 3ª fase pasaría a ser la primera.


In a small exhibition as in this case, every stone is given a qualification that resembles those applied by financial assets qualifying entities (AAA, ABB, BAA, BCC, …); for instance ABB is better than BAA. If the

Awarding target is composition, Step 3 would became Step 1 and the other two will be stepped down.


When there is a large number of exhibits (over 30), the process may be eased considering every step as an eliminatory round: only those exhibits receiving an A grade (sometimes, B grade are kept as well) in step 1 are considered in step 2, and step 3 is only applied to exhibits with AA grade in step 2 (sometimes, AB and BA grades may also be included).


This method does not ensure objectivity (it is impossible, as aesthetic criteria present a strong personal factor, being so subjective), but it helps the judge to avoid focusing on a single aspect but to pay attention to all of them and to take into consideration the visual impact and the suggestiveness of the composition as a whole.


The awarded stones are now displayed.




UBI 2014 Award

Abegawa-ishi (Igor Carino)




UBI Merit Certificate: “Il saggio”

Campania (Antonio Marino)



UBI Merit Certificate

(Ezio Piovanelli)


In addition to UBI awards that were my sole responsability, other distinctions were granted to the following stones: 


IBS Plate: “L’approdo”

Liguria (Daniela Schifano)


AIAS Plate

Japón (Mauro Stemberger)


BCI Award: “Ai chiaro di luna” 

Toscana (Umberto Zinitti)



Estas fotos las he tomado de http://www.aias-suiseki.it/it/Ubi2014, donde hay un excelente reportaje realizado por Daniela Schifano, porque, sinceramente, son mejores que las que había sacado yo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014