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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a fan of Japanese designs in gardening. One of the hardest things for me to grasp is their concepts of space. Here's a quote that I think does a good job of explaining some key principles:

One of the first things that occur to western eyes viewing a Japanese garden is the "emptiness" of portions of the garden. This is unsettling to gardeners accustomed to filling every space in the garden for a riot of color, but it is a key element in the design of Japanese gardens. This space, or ma, defines the elements around it, and is also defined by the elements surrounding it. It is the true spirit of in and yo, that which many of us know by the Chinese words yin and yang. Without nothing, you cannot have something. This is a difficult point to grasp, but it is a central tenet of Japanese gardening.

Another key point to ponder is the concept of wabi and sabi. Like so many Japanese words, there is no single translation. Wabi can denote something one-of-a-kind, or the spirit of something; the closest we can come to a literal translation is "solitary". Sabi defines time or the ideal image of something; the closest definition might be "patina". While a cement lantern may be one of a kind, it lacks that ideal image. A rock can be old and covered with lichens, but if it is just a round boulder it has no wabi. We must strive to find that balance.


Take a look at this picture of one of Amano's famous works. I've pulled it from a site on the web:



How do you think Amano has used yin and yang/wabi and sabi here?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This is one of Amano's older works. I think it is described in Nature Aquarium Book 1. It is a real tank and there's several pictures of it in the book and elsewhere.

John, I see the picture, perhaps you are having trouble with your pop-up blocker or anti-virus software?

TWood, I know Amano takes great care not to get reflections. I'm sure he may use a little PhotoShopping to get that done as well. :D

The reason I posted this as an example was that it is not your typical discus setup. Yes, they are big and need a big tank, but people typically give them plenty of hiding spaces. You'll see a lot of heat tolerate tall plants.

Amano chose to go the other way and leave them out in the open there. The ying/yang or balance between the open space and the driftwood is just right to me. It would be very easy to put too large or too small a piece of driftwood here and the aquascape would be off. There is a tremendous amount of open space here, but the aquascape doesn't appear to be empty or missing plants, right?

Also, note that the large discus are balanced with the small rummy nose tetras. The green plants with the brown wood. The glossostigma with the upward leaves of the microsorum, Crypt, and hairgrass.

As for the wabi/sabi, I think the driftwood gives you the impression of being there for decades. Why is that? Is it the placement, color, texture of the wood or is it the fact that he's tied microsorum to it? The glosso also is kept in a way that is reminiscent of a ground that's been there forever.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Like all good artists, you learn the key principles and then you internalize them. This makes them your own and you develop your own style for things but always having those basic principles in mind.

I remember Amano's concern with the late release of his books in the US. He mentioned that the Nature Aquarium concept had evolved so much in the time the books were published in Japan and when they were being published in the US.

What interests me is this Amano's learning that caused the changes or is it refinements? Is it Amano internalizing more of the core principles and then putting them into practice better or was he just getting bored with old scapes and wanted a fresher look?

Anyway, this is the reason I started this thread. I think those principles serve people well. We should think about them more and see how we can put them to practice in our aquascapes.

I would set up an aquarium with a vague idea of what I wanted. Typically, I was limited by the materials available to me. Then as time went on, I would find myself tweaking the placement of the hard scape items and realizing that so and so plant would be better in the other corner or trimmed lower. Thnking back on it now, I think I was using the above techniques without even knowing it.
 
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