Author Topic: Interview with Boon Manakitivipart (Part 6-Talent and Technique)  (Read 8017 times)


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Sashi-eda: In some quarters talent is held as the trump card for making great bonsai. Can you discuss the relationship between talent and technique? How much can talent be developed in someone of average ability, and can those with average ability produce really great bonsai? In what area would talent be most useful? Choosing material, developing material, or some other avenue?

Boon: Here is my opinion on talent and technique. They go hand in hand. I will use the apprentice-life as an example first.

Being an apprentice, it starts with doing all bonsai related work before you really start working on the trees. The work consists of keeping the nursery clean, keep the place free of weeds, watering trees, making tea for visitors, sifting soil, cleaning pots, and etc.

If the apprentice practices and follows the basic instructions, his skills will develop. After his master recognizes his ability (or basic skill), he will move the apprentice onto better and better trees. As he improves more, the quality of the trees become higher and higher. Less and less instruction is given. It might just be a little suggestion. Over time these suggestions will become more and more subtle. The master’s comments move away from skill and more towards artistic expressions and beauty for the individual species and tree.

The person with talent may be able to spot a good tree when he sees it. Some can see what it should look like in the future. But talent can not be introduced and learned. A true master’s talent will develop into a unique style. But it will sit on the shoulders of his master.

If one only have talent and no technique, it is hard to maintain and continue to improve the tree as it continues to develop.

Without a good foundation, one will have to re-invent a way to style and develop bonsai. That is a big waste of time, since the knowledge is already here. The Japanese have developed technique for several hundred years. Information is now passed on to the next generations.

In conclusion, many can enjoy making better and better bonsai as their skills improve. But in the end, bonsai is an art related to nature. It should be understandable that after one has the finished with his, or her, training, there is one thing left: the ART of bonsai. Whenever I return to Japan and look at great bonsai shows with my colleagues from Kihach-En, it is art and design that is discussed, not skill. We expect a high level of skill.