Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Noelanders Trophy XIV. The Good the Bad and the Ugly Part 2

For many, the highlight of any big event like the Noelanders Trophy, is the vendors area. For others it is the chance to see demonstrations. For me it is and always will be the exhibition of trees. Bonsai for me is first and foremost about trees and I get great pleasure from looking at the trees in any exhibition and at a prestigious event like the Noelanders it also gives you a chance to showcase your own work. Whether that may be your own tree or a tree of a client or student it does not matter, it is better than any business card. Also you get to see the work of others and from that you can see an individuals style, their understanding of bonsai, aesthetics and presentation and much more. I did not exhibit this year as my trees were not ready, however next year I will be exhibiting.

One thing that continues to amaze me is how many trees get exhibited before they are ready. This is usually due to two reasons. Firstly a lack of understanding of what a mature bonsai is, by that I mean a tree that does not look like it has just been styled. It should have a maturity about it.
Secondly the 'I must have a tree in the exhibition' mind set. Which translated can also read 'I need to be seen'. (Just in case people forget their name).
Some trees are a long way off from being ready for exhibition. They may have a nice shape but often the branches are out of proportion to the trunk. So you have a mature deciduous tree with a great trunk and thin young branches recently grown over a few years. And people say 'Yes but it's lovely' but they can't see it's an old trunk with young branches. Or in some cases an old tree with mature branches but with no ramification!
Here is an example of a tree ready for exhibition.


The overall level of this years exhibition was up another notch and there were more trees too! So really a double achievement. It can be hard to put on an exhibition of this size and maintain a high level of excellence. So to raise the level and take on more trees is amazing. But a lot of that is to do with the participants. People are recognising the importance of the Noelanders Trophy and want to be a part of it, therefore more trees are being put forward for selection. They do not seem to be hindered by the back biting, politics, ego's and general apathy that infects the British Bonsai scene!

This year there was no KIFU prize, but instead a BEST DECIDUOUS BONSAI award. It is a shame because the KIFU category has produced some very nice trees including this winner from 2008.

However the winning Deciduous tree was stunning, a Fagus crenata originally from Saburo Kato, exhibited by Louis Vallejo. The Noelanders Trophy winner was also from Louis Vallejo, this time a Spruce originally from Masahiko Kimura.

The winning deciduous tree!

And the Noelanders Trophy winner.

Spain were the dominating force this year and not Italy and it was not just the quality of the trees, but the number of quality trees. It was interesting that an Italian artist posted on Facebook that the Italians should be ashamed and that they have been sitting on their laurels too long. Phew they certainly get worked up. And this morning the Spanish have posted on FACEBOOK that they are the super champions of Europe. For a moment it almost felt like Inter Milan vs Barcelona all over again! But joking aside, it is this competitive edge that is pushing up the level of bonsai in Europe. And this is exactly what the Gingko Awards did too. It made people raise their game.
I personally don't feel that the chest beating and Tarzan calls are necessary. But that's just me. I prefer the way of the samurai.

Here is an Olive from one of the Spanish guys.

These three trees I have posted here from the exhibition were all big trees and very impressive and imposing. One tree that caught my eye was a literati pine. It was understated with great character, lovely mature bark and it sat quietly between some very loud trees drawing very little attention. But it was exquisite.

This photo does not do it justice. First of all it was taken on my iPhone but being two dimensional you cannot see the delicacy of the branches. A tree does not have to be tied in knots and have acres of deadwood to make a statement, you just need to listen to what it is saying. 
Unfortunately many people including a lot of the 'super stars' are seduced by extremes. The huge behemoth's too big to carry or the contorted writhing masses of trunk and branches are the 'only way'. They do not appreciate the grace of the ballerina or the slim character of the old man of the mountain like this literati.

One of the exhibitors had certainly been thinking outside of the box and had brought this juniper arrangement.

The black back drop is a wall on which the presentation is mounted. On the right we have a Sabina Juniper in a cascade style and to the left are three artificial rocks which are a waterfall complete with running water, the small aquarium pump creating the waterfall was housed behind the exhibit. This was quite innovative. It is not my cup of tea, but it's nice to see someone pushing the boundaries a little and it did get people talking and possibly made a few people rethink their next exhibit.

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