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Re: Amano-One hand clapping

Edward Venn wrote:

> Speaking about Takeshi Amano, his concepts are based on the Japanese view 
> of  gardens and gardening in general. A japanese garden must emulate 
> nature, it  should contain all the elemental forces earth, air, water and
> fire and should be viewable from all sides. Each side should present a
> different yet similar face and should emulate the theories espoused by 
> gardeners through the ages and also by Amano san.

For those who wonder, I think that light qualifies as the element of fire.

I think that Amano wrote early on that the aquascape should be a 
3-dimensional composition, viewable from all sides.  Then when ADA set up 
their contest I understand that entries were judged on a single frontal 
photograph.  That made me wonder just how important it really was that an 
aquascape should be viewable from all angles.

In fact my books claim that many Japanese gardens are composed so that they 
are best viewed from one direction, as through a particular window, or from a 
particular balcony.  I thought those gardens might provide the best analogy 
to aquascapes because a person would never actually be able to walk through 
an aquascape in the same way that one would walk through a tea garden or a 
large stroll garden.

> Amano's inspiration are the landscapes he photgraphs and the zen concepts
> of symetry, design and placement. Zen says that nature is perfect in its 
> perfection and this colours his views. Small things such as a branch 
> sticking through a fence or moss growing a rock wall are aspects of this.

Of course Amano can draw his inspiration from anywhere he choses.  I'm not 
entirely sure it makes that much difference where he get's it.  The end 
result does not spring directly from the inspiration and probably in most 
instances ends up having little resemblence to whatever first inspired it.

Only a fairly small fraction of Amano's compositions that I've seen actually 
bear any resemblance to a natural scene, much less to a recognizable 
landscape.  In most instances Amano's title and description are the only clue 
that would lead the viewer to believe that the composition may have been 
inspired by some natural setting.

In fact, many of his aquascapes are easily described as still lives composed 
in rock or wood, and "filled out" with plants.  It often is the inanimate 
parts of the aquascape that form it's most important elements.  As another 
member of this list pointed out, the plants are relatively unimportant to the 

Not everyone holds Amano's work in the same awe that people on this list 
commonly express.  Soon after I bought his first book I sat down with a 
friend (himself a long-time aquarist and an on-again, off-again artist from a 
family of artists) and we went through the book. He was completely 
unimpressed.  In fact he pointed out many of the smaller tanks (which in the 
first book were not very small) as examples of exactly the sort of uncomposed 
"crowd of plants" that he particularly disliked.

> Like a house or garden exposed to the elements, the aquarium must age 
> gracefully, ie: plants must look natural and fill in their alloted space 
> without looking unnatural of forced. Groups of 7,5 or 3 are also a Japanese 
> concept coming from those ages in a person's life that are important,
> Shichi Go San in Japanese.

Aging naturally is a difficult thing for aquariums, because the plants grow 
so quickly compared to the size of the aquascape.  The plants are contantly 
trimmed, replanted, renewed and replaced.  The aquascapes in Amano's books 
often reflect this very dynamic quality.  Many of the photographs feature 
heavily trimmed and/or immature plants and could never mature into a state 
that is nearly as attractive as the state that was created for the photograph.

I personally love the symbolism and the extra layers of meaning that are 
often woven into Japanese gardens.  Those same features can be carried over 
to aquascapes, but their value is lost on anyone who doesn't grasp the 
cultural context.

> Essential to almost any aquarium layout that hopes to emulate nature or 
> natural conditions, materials must appear natural and unchanging. Rock and 
> woodwork must be viewable from all sides in a Japanese garden and must
> evoke different images to the viewer. Buildings also evoke this aspect as 
> well for example a concert hall appears to look like a piano when viewed 
> from above and like something else when viewed from the side.

I have to admit that now in my middle age I have only recently come to 
appreciate the value of assymetry and visual complexity.  It came to me one 
day while I was looking at an old and often-remodeled house that I didn't 
recognize at all. I Then I realized that I saw that same house almost every 
day on my way to work, but from a different angle.  Because of its complex 
assymetry, seeing the house again from a different angle was like seeing it 
for the first time.  I liked that.  That "different from every angle" affect 
seems to me like a very difficult achievement.  From my experience, achieving 
it could be a great accomplishment.

> lastly, it comes down to controlling those forces of nature that can be 
> controlled, in the natural world nothing is truly stable or unchanging, 
> these forces are at work but move very slowly, in Amano's aquatic world
> this becomes an artificial concept of nature.

I'm not sure that I understand your point here.  Certainly it is true that 
the complete control we excercise in our aquariums makes our aquascapes (or 
Amano's) unnatural.  It's also that control that allows us to compose 
something beautiful from a living and ever-changing medium.

Roger Miller