All bonsai have a “front”. Bonsai is to compare with a painting, and relates to the landscape paintings of Japan. Therefore a bonsai have a front where it is best viewed, unlike sculptures which are viewed from more sides.
The front may change after repotting or restyling i.e. but always with the optimal front considered when these tasks are performed. The way bonsai are displayed in a Tokonoma / alcove, is also closely related to the landscape paintings. Therefore the expression and the mood of a bonsai display is always is some extend related to the landscape painting, and time of year. Even the time of the day may be considered. An evening mood with a low sun at a scroll painting can suggest this, or the moon in the night gives the feeling of the cool night e.g.
Even though a bonsai has a front it is possible to view from other angles too, but still have a best position view. This means not that the back of the tree is neglected because it adds depth and may be visible through gaps between branches i.e.
The scroll (if used), and accents plantings, further adds history to the main tree and its suggested location, environment, seasonal approach e.g. What’s important when viewing a bonsai display is to perceive the feeling the artist has tried to express. We may individually read the same display in slightly different ways, but the basics will mostly be clearly understood by all.
The landscape painting references
Having the landscape painting in mind when setting up a bonsai display makes it easier to arrange, read and understand.
Referring to the landscape painting, is not only the way trees, grasses, flowers, mountains i.e. can be used as elements through the use of bonsai, accent plantings, Suiseki (viewing stones), scroll painting or accessories, but also the empty space is an important feature. The empty space is that extra element of the untold that is both present in the painting and the bonsai display. The empty space expands the untold part of the story and the imagination fills in the rest and adds the important peacefulness to the picture.
This can all be done in a very modest and simple way, like it can be done with a fuller image with more elements, but always with the lightness and simplicity of the open spaces and landscape paintings elements in mind.