The art of bonsai dates back over a thousand years and stems from the similar culture of penjing in Chinese history. I've always found these little plants quite beautiful and so when I had the opportunity to visit the National Bonsai and Penjing collection at the National Arboretum in Canberra in December 2017 I was keen to grab some photos. Unfortunately I only had a couple of hours available and it was pouring with rain but one of the volunteers kindly offered to follow me around holding an umbrella over my head as I wandered the exhibition and photographed these miniature works of art. For me the idea of placing them into an environment where they appeared to be full size trees appealed to my sense of the surreal, a way to create images where reality becomes somewhat ambiguous. I like the irony of making a tree that has been painstakingly crafted to be small and imagining it as a full size tree growing in the wild!
(Top of page) Chinese Juniper. Bonsai artist - Syd Green
(Above) Montezuma Bald Cypress. Bonsai artist - Grant Bowie
(Below) Nepal Juniper. Bonsai artist - Jarryd Bailey
The real artists of these images are the original cultivators of the bonsai themselves. People who have patiently tended these little plants to conform to their intended design. Where possible I have credited the original bonsai artists.
The art of bonsai is a slow process requiring years of careful cultivation to produce a tree with an appealing aesthetic. In many ways their growth mimics the human condition in that we are shaped by the forces that influence us as we grow. The limits of the pot in which we live, the careful winding of outside influences and the trimming of the things we no longer require. We continue to grow and change in the aim of creating someone beautiful and graceful and a sense of peace.