Yesterday I bought myself a 'bonsai' (Juniperus Squamata Prostrata 2005) for the Studio owing to some ridiculous infatuation I am having with the Japanese at the moment. I had a smaller less intense run of it about 12 months ago when, if some of you may recall, many Japanese ancient art references were used as backdrops for our bow ties in a series of photos for the blog and website.
It's grip this time around is starting to filter into my life philosophy and general psyche. Because the more I look at Japanese art the more I see references to other artists and their work. Brett Whiteley, for example, now appears to me as merely an evolved and Australian version of Japanese shunga art. His nudes take on almost the same contours and lines and I believe I read somewhere that he owned shunga art himself.
Then, on another tangent, the Aesthetic, Audrey Beardsley, whom I had seen before but was re-introduced to this week by a guest at the Studio, it also carried the same references back to Japanese wood block printing.
Which brings me back to my bonsai. The word literally translates from Japanese into English as 'tree in a pot' but the word conjures up so much more than just a tree in a pot. I was in Caringbah the other day for work and I decided to stop into the local Bonsai nursery. I had driven past this business over the last 15 years and never bothered to stop in and since I was so immersed in Japanese culture I thought I might do well to pay them a visit.
I walked amongst the nursery bewildered by what I saw. Conifers that had been clipped and pruned and maintained since the 1960's were there in pots looking absolutely stunning - a natural sculpture that was evolved from one persons imagination and a great deal of time and care to carefully shape and allow these plants to grow.
The owner, Leon, walked me around. He was Chinese but carried a sort of Mr Miyagi mannerism about him (though his accent was Chinese not Japanese) as I pointed things out. "That one", "that is $8000, I inherited it from my master, who had been working on it since 1972".
"What do you think this is? You are not buying a pot plant, you are buying time, patience and nurture" .
I took some more photos.
One part of bonsai culture is to make exact replications of larger trees, carefully pruning and maintaining them to be in the exact same proportions. Another part of the culture of bonsai is to create shapes and contours which are conjured up in the bonsai artists mind. Moreover, there is some fluidity to it, because the bonsai is always growing and changing, to the artist must continue to evolve with it by constant clipping and trimming, being mindful of the health of the plant when considering the aesthetic qualities.
Bonsais are best kept out in the open with as much sun as possible, with the ideal place being somewhere on a garden bench. You can bring them inside to admire them and maintain them, but they need fresh air and sun too. As well as constant watering. Then over time they need to be replanted along with pruning and trimming.
Something makes me want to make a good go of this bonsai. Maybe it's a metaphor for nurturing your business. Maybe at the end when I have sculpted it to taste it might turn into a silk. Maybe I'll grown bored of it and it will die or it will be too much maintenance and I'll hand it on to someone else.
Time will tell, but I am certain that there will be plenty of lessons to be learned along the way.