Say NO to RULES. We are still clinging to the bonsai rules thing. When we do not cope with the artistic freedom or maybe are afraid of failing, we can always say we did what we did, because the rules told us to do so. But the frightening truth is, there are no rules in bonsai.
There may be some restrictions regarding exhibit areas on a exhibition, how tall a tree going into the shohin category have to be e.g., but generally speaking THERE ARE NO RULES.
A common belief concerning shohin-bonsai displays is that the display has to be with a odd number of trees; when counting elements, dead items do not count in (scrolls), – and even at the latest exhibition I took part in a judge disqualified a display because of the use of an even number of trees. Say what?
I have therefore borrowed a few photos from the highly recognized Japanese exhibition Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association, with examples that proves not to go with this misunderstanding. There are no rules telling us how many elements to put in to the display area assigned the artist.
Some times it is easier to set up a display with an uneven number of trees, because it is easier to balance the display. But it is only because of this, not that you cant or will be denied artistic freedom. Why are most displays with an uneven number of elements then? you may ask. Because it is easier to set up and achieve harmony. If you use an even number of items, the use of negative space is very important to achieve the right balance and harmony – but if it works it works. So please go ahead and experiment with the display, and forget about numbers and rules. Just think about the expression, the mood, the feeling and balance of your display. That’s what counts.