Last weekend I attended a demonstration by a Pilipino bonsai artist Juan Llaga at the Tops Weekend organised by the Illawarra Bonsai Society. As always, I really enjoyed the event, but was mildly disappointed by this year’s international demonstrator.
Images above show ‘before and after’ of the first part of his demonstration. I honestly couldn’t see the point of it. He could have used a miniature umbrella instead of a tree to achieve the same effect.
Images below show ‘before and after’ of the second and main part of his demonstration. The forest planting assembled by Juan lacks cohesion and falls short in the following areas:
- sub-optimal arrangement of trees in terms of their height;
- inconsistent angles at which the trees are planted;
- thoughtless branch arrangement;
- unnecessary and repetitive jins.
In the week following the demonstration, I came across something written by Ming dynasty scholar Shih T'ao. He wrote about painting trees: "The ancients were in the habit of representing trees in groups of three, five, nine or ten. They painted them in their various aspects, each according to its distinctive appearance; they blended the uneven heights of their silhouettes into a living, harmonious whole. I like painting pines, cedars, old acacias and junipers, often in groups of three of five. Like heroes performing a war dance, they display a wide variety of attitudes and gestures; some lower their heads, others raise them; some double up on themselves, others point straight and boldly upward." This passage reminded about the weaknesses in Juan Llaga's forest planting composition.