Naoki Maeoka, Japanese bonsai master
Meet the master
How do you envisage the art of bonsai?
In the art of bonsai, I have taken a special interest in the principles of Wabi sabi*. You need to study the world of trees constantly and thoroughly to gradually solve its mystery. While Wabi sabi is a difficult concept, which must be viewed through the prism of time and supporters, when you consider a tree like this one (use the picture of a tree), with its history, its line, when you think about those who have taken an interest in it and derived pleasure from its mere contemplation, I believe you can feel its true nature and understand its beauty.
What does the contemporary art of bonsai mean?
Practising the art of bonsai nowadays means approaching each tree in a pertinent and unique manner. Knowledge of past practices, e.g. why copper wire came to be used and how it was used over time, is of course crucial. Some countries favour approaches referred to as “Bonsai checklist”. One must ensure that this step-by-step sequencing and classification of bonsai practices does not limit or stereotype the style, and does not mean shaping the same tree over and over again.
What is your personal touch?
Every tree has a transcendental dimension, which is seldom fully revealed: one must search, beyond shape or style, for the very essence of the tree, its fundamental presence, the inner strength derived from its advanced age. My philosophy is to ensure bonsai brings pleasure and joy to the greatest number of people.
*Wabi sabi is an aesthetic concept derived from the spirituality of Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Wabi sabi combines two principles: wabi (solitude, simplicity, nature, fulfilment and humility in the face of natural events) and sabi (patina, alteration through time, feeling caused by the passage of time and man’s action). It advocates a return to simplicity, peaceful thriftiness that may have a beneficial influence on existence, where one can recognise and experience the beauty of things, however imperfect.