The spiritual and cultural significance of growing miniature bonsai trees derives from a thousand-year-old horticultural tradition in Japan, representing a careful, contemplative and Zen-influenced relationship between humans and nature. Taking up this time-honoured practice of cultivating trees, Japanese artist-architect Takanori Aiba gives his bonsai an unusual twist by adding on miniature, realistic structures like bridges, stairs and intricately detailed buildings.
Drawing upon his work experience as a maze illustrator and architect, Aiba uses stone clay, epoxy putty, copper line, plastic, resin and various recycled items to create imaginary landscapes around his small trees. He explains on My Modern Met that
Bonsai reflects the Japanese traditional aesthetic sense of expressing the magnificence of nature in a small potted plant. However, the density of decoration and the rich stories of my works contain extraordinary times and spaces which differ from the bonsai world determined by plants physiology.
Though his sculptures of tiny treehouses, solitary lighthouses and the Michelin Hotel (literally) may seem unorthodox and relatively overbuilt, bonsai-wise, there are more traditionalist elements than meets the eye. Aiba also employs suiseki -- naturally occurring small rocks that would appeal to rock collectors, and which are traditionally placed on containers of their own.
Then there is this whimsical "Ice Cream Packages" piece, which we suppose is constructed with recycled ice cream packaging.
Blending tradition with a vibrant, fantastical realism, Aiba's unconventional sculptures point to new horizons in a venerable tradition, by allowing us to peer into an idyllic world where nature and man live harmoniously, side by side. More over at Takanori Aiba's website.