According to Walter Pall, a well-respected Austrian Bonsai master, “a tree in a pot, is a tree in a pot; it becomes a bonsai, when it speaks to your soul”. The history of this art form is derived from an ancient Indian horticultural practice, which then moved to China with the spread of Zen Buddhism, and part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Chinese learned men, called “the literati”. From China it moved to Japan, where the artists and poets developed most of the concepts and philosophies which define the Art which the world now practices.
This seemingly trivial statement may be acceptable in the West; yet in Asia, one would state the contrary: bonsai is the art of the invisible. A bonsai, as a piece of art, is not an open platitude but is more like a four-line poem where the fourth line is missing. From the point of view of the designer, bonsai is the art of making visible something that was not there previously, which belongs to the unknown until understood with our intellect. The intellect can help in thinking about the story the tree is telling the viewer about nature. But the intellect cannot help us in really making one understand the emotions that this story evokes. Thus, Bonsai is not the art of the visible, it is the art of making visible, while the process of seeing something happens within the viewer who sees something that is not there.
Interestingly, American Bonsai is only about 70 years old, which is very young compared to the centuries of practice found in China and Japan.
By filing a space with bonsai specimens and expert artists, attendee are enabled to understand from three important perspectives: thoughtful analytic engagement; historical depth; and in the active space of exhibition discovery. In addition, by combining theory with live practice in the demonstration, encourages attendees to reflect on the art at its deepest level and interact with practitioners. The experiences in both life and in the presented work illustrate how the artists and trees are influenced by things like history, philosophy, literature and folklore. Bonsai Art illustrates the humanities, while the humanities translate and interpret the illustration.