Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bonsai Streaming by on Twitter

Over the last couple of days, I've followed several interesting 3-way Twitter discussions on various bonsai-related topics:  the use of colour and glazes of bonsai pots, choosing a bonsai pot, the position of a tree in the pot, soil contour in a pot to complement the flow of the tree, etc.  Protagonists of these discussions were @MoKusa, @bonsaibanter  and @ExtremeWork.  A minor and boring detail called the day job prevented me from joining in tweet streams that sometimes spanned a couple of days.  Unfortunately I don't have software that allowed me to copy and archive the streams either. 

But, Plan B - I haz one!  Iz called a blog! Dis blog here, even!

So here is my version of coming late to the party, but sticking my oar in nonetheless.  Mixed metaphors, I haz dem too.

One of the early discussions reminded me of a lively interchange between TOH and myself over the right pot for our Satsuki Azalea 'Kinsai'.  We are pretty much agreed on the (approximate) shape, depth and other dimensions of the pot but where our opinions diverge (and boy do they diverge) are on what we consider a suitable colour and texture for Kinsai's new home.

So backtrack a bit to where we are coming from: TOH's visual composition background is rooted in photography; mine is in a traditional Western Art education, particularly painting and illustration; as for the Kinsai, it's coming out this pot:

I'm also coming from the standpoint of a person who doesn't like the colour of Kinsai flowers.  TOH utterly loves it.  So my choice of pot colour is driven by a desire to mitigate an effect, TOH's goal is to emphasize and provide a frame to that colour.  Damage Limitation vs Enhancement.

Most people would say Kinsai has red flowers (and that would be true); but I would like to qualify that this is a warm red, i.e. veering towards orange rather than towards violet.  Whether you can see that from the photo will very likely depend on your screen resolution.

My point of view is that our interpretation of colour is very subjective, even though quantifiable (so to speak) definitions exist for various pure spectral colours, for example.  So the definition of the colour 'red' in approximate frequencies (in terahertz) and wavelengths (in nanometers) would be a frequency interval of ~ 430–480 THz  and a wavelength interval of ~ 700–635 nm.  (Source: Wikipedia)

But that doesn't quite tell my brain and naked eye if they should be looking for the red of a postbox, the red of a child's crayon or the red of (fresh) blood, for example.  So my brain tends to refer to the crayons of my childhood when I envisage the primary and secondary colours.  Because really, who can see all of the 7 colours of a rainbow with their naked eye anyway?

So back to our Kinsai and its warm-hued red spider flowers (because yes, the great majority of its flowers are the thin spidery kind - at least it's doing one thing right) and our colour choice for a pot.  My damage limitation tendency leads me to balance off the 'orange-red' with its colour complements, i.e. a glossy two-tone glaze of blue-green.  TOH, with a 'if you've got it flaunt it' attitude, is leaning towards a contrast using a matte black glaze.  Our compromise?  We asked the potter to make 2 pots, one in each glaze and  we'll decide come re-potting day by holding each one up against the Satsuki.  Not quite the dramatic flair of the wisdom of Solomon, but a practical solution that was arrived to in less than 5 seconds.  We've obviously had disagreements like this before.

What we haven't agreed on either is whether a high-gloss glaze will advance visually so much that it would overpower a tree, no matter how strong the visual weight of said tree.  My contention is that a balance can always be achieved, TOH feels that would be unlikely and the extreme gloss would always call attention to itself and overshadow the tree.  But, until we have the physical evidence before our eyes, we'd never really resolve that one, would we?

Just to make things more difficult, the political question of who the potter should please becomes a tricky one: I paid for the Kinsai but I also gave it to TOH as an unbirthday present.  So the tree is technically TOH's but I am also very likely going to pay for the pot.  So as far as customer satisfaction is concerned, who is the potter's customer anyway?

That aside, if you are on Twitter and are inclined to follow more erudite discussions on the art, craft and science that is bonsai, then add these guys to your follow list.

PS: What's an unbirthday present?  If you can't be bothered to read Alice in Wonderland, there's always Google :D

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