It’s hard to gauge from this photograph, but at 130cm x 120cm, this a LARGE bonsai, which I know… is a totally oxymoronic statement. How is it not simply a tree, you ask?
In the Zen art of Bonsai, by making tiny trees, or I should say, assisting to keep trees tiny, our perception of scale is tickled. It’s the same feeling you get when viewing sculptures like giant tubes of toothpaste by Claes Oldenburg, or the eerily life-like creations of Ron Mueck who works in both the giant and the pint-size. The newborn baby should not be the size of a swimming pool, and that middle-age spooning couple shouldn’t fit within the palm of my hand. It confuses us, but tickles us too.
A LARGE bonsai adds another layer to that skewed scale perception, and in so doing, highlights what it is that makes a tree a bonsai. It’s not merely about size, it’s about the character of age, its shape and balance, its root structure, thick tapered trunk and gnarled branches. These are the attributes a bonsai master is careful to maintain, and ditto when I create my bonsai works.
Although executed through very modern painting techniques, these bonsai are “grown” and “guided” in much the same way as a traditional bonsai tree. (Thankfully for me, in slightly less time.) When working with paint-pours, I surrender to Nature (gravity, paint viscosity, surface tension, etc.). I can do little but guide Nature to create what could be used to represent a trunk, age spots, or a gnarled branch.
It is in the surrendering to Nature, that allows for the mimicry of Nature… and that’s all pretty bloody Zen. ;)