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tsunami said:
1) Does the aquascape make an original creative impression to the viewers?
Actually this looks to me like a Thomas Kinkade painting, For instance

or


2) Is the aquascape composed well (is there compositional balance within the aquascape)?
Very well balanced. The bright reds might cover a slightly too-large area. The sense of depth is pretty amazing, and even enhanced by the slight cloudiness in the water.

3) Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape? Does the balance exist in the colors and shapes of the plants used?
The placement of red plants is very effective. The right foreground seems a little busy. Probably one of those plant species is unnecessary.

5) Is the aquascape laid out well making a natural looking atmosphere?
This image does not seem at all natural to me.

Some questions of my own:

1) What compositional rules does this layout follow? Which compositional rules does it break?
Use of the golden section isn't obvious. The plants are arranged in very "Dutch" groups which is a little unusual for Amano.

2) What are the main elements in this layout? How do they work together harmoniously (or unharmoniously)?
The mid-ground funnel focusing attention on hole in the upper center, framed by red plants; the bright surface and the dark foreground.

3) What type of atmosphere/impression does this layout seem to create for the viewer?
Like the Kinkade pictures, a little tacky.

Roger Miller
 

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tsunami said:
It would be interesting to read what people think when they imagine a "natural" looking tank.
It would be interesting to read why people think it is important for something as obviously contrived as an aquarium to appear natural. I'm reasonably happy with aquariums that look surreal. I'm even happy with aquariums that look like gardens--they don't even have to look like Japanese gardens to make me happy.

Once we work out the importance of looking natural then we can start to work on how something can look both "natural" and "creative"; the first would seem to imply the absence of human influence and the second would be meaningless without human influence.

Roger Miller
 

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I am interested to read Jeff's response, if he choses to make one. For my part I will start here...
TPIRman said:
"Nature" is the other other label we seek to apply, but others on this board have already examined the difficulties there. To recap: What the hell is "nature"?

One point that needs to be made: Amano has never held his aquascapes up to the restrictive standard that many on this board seek to apply, in which the "natural" aquarium resembles an aquatic environment in the wild. Amano aquascapes use natural forms as a source for inspiration, but the resulting works are evocations, rather than approximations, of their natural subjects.

Amano also (rightly, IMO) rejects the nature-vs.-artifice binary. One of the essays accompanying an aquascape in NAW 1 is entitled "Artifice Over Nature," and it concludes with this quote: "Yes, such a beautiful waterscape doesn't exist in nature. Only artifice made by human hands can attain this beauty."

Amano regards nature as his inspiration, but he also considers his human artifice as an extension of nature's beauty. Artifice can both emulate nature and surpass it. This is a more nuanced view than the black-and-white nature/artifice opposition that some are attributing to Amano and ADA.
I think you have provided us with some interesting points about what "natural" is not.. That leaves me still wondering what "natural" is. I don't think this is a case where the process of elimination is a useful tool for deduction. From your earlier discussion it seems you believe that Amano picks and chooses his concepts to fit his purposes rather than to meet a fixed definition. In that case is it likely that in the context of the ADA contest "looks natural" means nothing more than "looks like something Amano might do"?

Returning briefly to things that aren't natural -- and to a more concrete critique of the picture that Carlos offered this week -- I'd like to point out a few features that prompted my comment that the aquascape did not look natural.

I've never seen blue (er, cyan?) crypts like those in the far right midground and I can't regard them as looking natural -- even given wide leeway in how that term might be defined. I also don't think that yellowish-cream is a natural or healthy color for the narrow leafed java fern in the right optical center of the photo. More generally I think that both the color saturation and the contrast in the image are not only unnatural, but probably not authentic; they bear more similarity to the bizzaro-world colors used by Kinkade than they do to anything I've seen in an aquarium.

Obviously these comments address the image more than they address the aquascape.

It's also relevant to note here that nature is not held up as the golden standard by which an aquascape is judged -- that honor goes to the even more difficult concept of "beauty." So what is beauty? I'm not going to touch that one with a ten-foot pole.
As I understand from Carlos' description, ADA does ask the judges to use "natural" as a criteria for ranking aquascapes. That's how the whole issue came up. ADA does not ask the the judges to rank entries based on their beauty. None of the contests I'm familiar with ask the judges to rank aquascapes on their beauty. I'm not saying it doesn't happen.

Roger Miller
 
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