Another winter is over and it's time for another ‘Tops Weekend’, the annual event held in Sydney by the Illawarra Bonsai Society. You can see my blog posts about some of the previous guest demonstrators at 'The Tops' here: Marc Nöelanders, Robert Steven, Steve Tolley. This year’s guest demonstrator was Min Hsuan Lo from Taiwan. This wasn’t his “first rodeo” in Australia. A couple of years ago he demonstrated at the National Bonsai Convention in Perth. The feedback about him at that time was good and I was especially curious about his demonstration at the Tops.
During the workshop on Saturday morning, I noticed that in some instances Lo made unorthodox decisions. This observation was confirmed during the Saturday night demonstration. The material Lo chose for the demo was a Juniper which was achingly suitable for an informal upright design (see images below). Previously, Marc Nöelanders and Mauro Stemberger worked with very similar material from the same source and produced almost identical informal upright results. I was bracing myself for another one just like it, when Lo told us that he hasn’t decided what style it’s going to be, but it not going to be informal upright.
Lo explained his intention with a joke. He said that he feels like a school boy facing typically boring expectations from his farther and it would be almost common sense for the boy to defy such expectations and do the opposite. I think Lo wanted to do something unconventional to stimulate our “artistic muscles” and to show the audience the world of artistic freedom where “left-back-and-right-makes-informal-upright” stereotype is just a small piece of a puzzle. You can see the final result of the demonstration in the right hand image below. It is not influenced by the Japanese conventions. There is potential for future elegance and balance in the design. It is unrefined and unfinished, but I could see the beginning of a tree with individuality and a degree of uniqueness.
In a week since “The Tops” I heard a rumour that “some people didn’t get him”. Lo spoke with a heavy accent and I could see the audience struggling to understand him. I spent years working in Penang where everyone spoke Lo’s native dialect (Hokkien Chinese). Understanding him was "a walk in the park” for me. He was very relaxed, spent a third of his demonstration talking with lots of humour and at the end he produced something that got my attention. So, I like him.