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Suiseki, Seeing Stone as Art: Maureen Wallner

posted Dec 10, 2010, 4:58 PM by Quad City Bonsai   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:01 PM ]

Shown here (right) is Harry Wallner’s Suiseki stone that was accepted for presentation at the Fifth World Bonsai Convention at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, May 2005.

 Suiseki” comes from the words“ Su” [water] and “seki” [stone]. The stone’s name has undergone transformations - as have its meanings - in different countries. When the stones first “came” to Japan in 600 AD, they were often known as “viewing stones.” Korea and Southeast Asia also display a version of this art form. But it was originally brought in from China and later adopted by these other countries.

 It is generally a single stone often displayed on a wooden base and carved into the shape of the base. It can be set in a shallow container filled with sand, fine gravel or water and can represent a stream, a mountain, a hut, a shack, or a flower. Perception then transforms it into a work of art.

The three main category groupings of Suiseki are scenic landscape stones evoking impressions of mountains or waterfalls; object stones resembling manmade objects such as boats or bridges, or animal shapes; and pattern stones seen as images of flowers such as chrysanthemums. The shapes of the stones

vary, some being rounder, and some, as in China, flatter. Types of stones will also vary. Some may be granite; others, quartz. Harry’s rock with its vertical bands of chert, sandstone, and shale is reminiscent of water flowing down into dry streambeds. Thinking that it might have come from a riverbed in Colorado, he chose to set it in a desert landscape of light sand.

The form of Suiseki can be just as varied as the perceptions of it. And to one Japanese collector its essence is even more than representative. It is spiritual. Quoting from a pamphlet of the San Francisco Suiseki Kai organization: “The contemplation of a stone as a symbol of nature relaxes the mind from pressures of a complex daily life and allows a person to retain his sense of values. The importance of life in its simplest form is reflected through the beauty, strength and character of the stone.”

Some other reference sources:
“The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation: Suiseki and Its Use With Bonsai” by Vincent T. Covello
“Suiseki & Viewing Stones: An American Perspective” by Melba L. Tucker
“Suiseki: The Japanese Art of Miniature Landscape Stones: by Felix G. Rivera