VSANA Contemporary Stone Gallery
Adam—in the Hand of Gods”
Critique by Richard Turner
This arrangement by Christoph Daim (Austria) adapts the conventions of the museum to viewing stone display. The bronze hand, presumably from a Southeast Asian Buddhist sculpture, is mounted on a metal rod in much the same way that fragments of antique sculpture from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere are displayed. The stone, which shares the simple base with the hand, was found in Carmargue, France. It suggests a fragment of a male torso. The juxtaposition of the two found objects, one fabricated and the other natural, is intended to suggest that the fate of humankind lies in the hands of the gods. The fact that the stone is leaning against the hand and literally depends on the support of then hand to remain vertical, reinforces the idea of human reliance on the gods. Contrasting the elegance of the hand and the roughness of the stone accentuates the distance between the gods and humanity. Interestingly, the bronze hand is in the teaching mudra. A mudra is a sacred gesture found in Buddhist and Hindu art. Christoph’s display is clearly a lesson in contemporary approaches to viewing stone presentation.
Wyoming in the western United States is one of the least populated state and still retains much of it rustic western atmosphere ands charm. As a result, it seems appropriate to match an old worn step stool as a base for the striking stone from the Snowy Range. The stone was mounted in an upright position to create the feeling of a figure or spirit. The walnut wood base was carved to follow the lines of the lower part of the stone to preserve the overall shape of the stone. The color of the base blends smoothly with the brownish components of the stone.
From the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji. Step Stool from Richard Turner. Arrangement, Richard Turner, Paul Harris and Tom Elias, 2017.
By Richard Turner
Suiseki display tradition insists that the base be subordinate to the stone. Modest, even minimal bases are preferred. Bases for Chinese viewing stones, on the other hand, are often more elaborate, at times vying for attention with the stone itself. This contemporary display has aspects of both Japanese and Chinese viewing stone display traditions.
Here the cutting board on which this piece of petrified wood sits has the size and shape of the thin hardwood boards often placed under suiseki. Breaking with tradition, this stone does not have a carved base but sits directly on the cutting board. The stone is placed off center and to the rear, so that when seen from the front, there is an adequate foreground. Its placement also takes into account the hole in the cutting board inasmuch as the eye, moving from right to left, is led from the hole, up the two-step vertical face of the stone to the peak and then gently down the left side to the edge of the cutting board. The tilt of the left face of the stone, combined with the steep angle of the top and the step-down of the right face cause the stone to “recoil” from the cutting board hole, much like an elephant in a cartoon might be startled by a mouse. Although the materials for this display are contemporary, the formal qualities of the arrangement are entirely consistent with conventional Japanese modes of display.
From a Chinese perspective, the drama of the base enhances the character of the stone. The horizontal pattern of the cutting board’s striped laminations echoes the vertical striations in the petrified wood. The warm colors of the dark and light wood strips complement the caramels, whites and yellows of the stone. The regularity of the alternating laminated strips, together with the flame-like striations in the stone suggest a different sort of harmony between a stone and its base.
It is also interesting to note that the base and the stone are both wood, one in its organic form the other in its “mineralized” form.
Petrified wood, 18cm x 12cm x 4cm purchased in Quartzsite Arizona. Cutting board from kitchen of Hiromi Nakaoji. Arrangement, Richard Turner, Paul Harris, Tom Elias 2017.
Displaying large stones can be challenging. A hand carved base can be costly, at least several hundred dollars. Likewise, finding a suitably sized bronze or ceramic tray deep enough to accommodate a large stone, can be even more expensive. A more economical alternative can sometimes be found in one’s own kitchen cabinet.
This large rustic wooden salad bowl is a good match for the California Trinity River stone pictured here. The hand-hewn texture of the bowl, its irregular coloration and uneven lip give the vessel a strength that frames the drama of the stone’s patterning without detracting from it. The muscular knots and burls of the stone evoke the Chinese concept of chi or vital spirit, the energy that animates the universe. The bowl’s generous size affords enough space for the rock to sit comfortably in the sand, the color of which complements both the color of the wood and the lighter areas of the stone. A potential problem with using a round-bottomed bowl as a display element is that the stone might not appear to be firmly grounded. In this case however, the peak of the stone is aligned with the center of the bowl in such a fashion that the bulk of the stone appears to fix the bowl in place on the table top.
California Trinity River stone, 32cm wide, 29 cm high, 11 cm deep (12.6 x 11.4 x 4.3 inches), collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji. Display by Tom Elias, Richard Turner and Paul Harris, 2017.
“The Stone and The Phone”
By Richard Turner
Chinese stone, cordless phone base, paint, 2017
This sculpture gently reminds us of our troubled relationship with planet Earth. The stone is from China. The base is a cradle for a cordless telephone. We extract millions of tons of minerals from the earth annually for the manufacture of the computers, mobile phones, television sets and other electronics. When these products become obsolete they are returned to the earth in the form of E-Waste, which often pollutes the earth and can be a significant health hazard for workers involved in processing the E-Waste. China is one of the main countries that process hazardous electronic waste. Joining this Chinese stone with a re-purposed cordless phone base calls our attention to both the problem and a partial solution.
Mi Fu’s Staff
by Tony Ankowicz
This 7.5 foot (2.28 m), 49 lbs (22.22 kg) stone, harvested from under the waters of the Great Lakes, Canada, is a unique example of the contrast between the beautiful harshness of the local environment and the transient fragility of nature’ssx art. Its existence in this delicate form before being discovered in a mere 4 feet (1.2 m) of water continues to be an enchanting mystery. Its structural integrity can be credited to a vein of very hard quartzite running the entire length, enveloped by two supportive layers of softer gneiss. The logistics of balancing such a slender stone necessitated incorporating a slight left leaning bias. Such an approach limited the requirement for an overly rounded and visually distracting mount. This amazing stone is respectfully titled “Mi Fu’s Staff.”x It was collected by and is owned by Tony Ankowicz.
The shape, undulating surface and color pattern of this stone evoked in the mind of the collector and owner, Patrick Metiva, the image of a scale that had fallen from a huge long extinct dragon. This stone is 20.3 x 31 x 7.6 cm (8 x12.25 x 3 inches deep and was collected in Snohomish County, Washington. The unusual contemporary base was hand carved by Patrick from a single piece of madrone wood (Arbutus menziesii). He wanted the base to be very organic as if it was a piece of dragon bone. Thus, it was left light in color as if it was a fragment of a bleached bone. While there is no scientific evidence for dragon existing in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., there may have been several in the rich legends and lore of Washington state.
It is generally accepted that an accent plant should be much smaller than the stone displayed. Perhaps this is an overly rigid rule. A small animal such as a frog or toad is typically much smaller than the plants in its environment. In the display pictured, this departure from the norm more accurately reflects a scene likely to be found in nature. Do the three objects in this display complement each other and combine to make a single statement? We think so. It is good to challenge rigid rules and think of new creative ways of displaying stones effectively. This display was made by Mr. Sugo Minetaka of Sapporo, Japan.
The surface pattern of this stone evokes a feeling of something much greater than the stone. The dark circle, radiating lines, and multiple colors suggest a celestial setting somewhere in the universe. This relatively hard igneous stone originated in Mexico and is a combination of several different minerals. It is a natural stone that was purchased at a mineral show in Deming, New Mexico, about fifteen years ago. This Nebula Stone creates the impression of a lunar eclipse to it owner—Les Allen.
Love at the Cliffs (崖壁情缘)
This Jiulong Bi stone with its subdued multiple colors and creative landscape base (景观创意座) gives the impression of a remote large rock outcrop where lovers meet. The use of modern style bases can help convey messages that would be difficult for traditional northern- or southern-style Chinese bases. Bringing more creativity to viewing stone display is an exciting element of contemporary stone display. This stone and base is in the collection of Thomas Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji. The stone is 18 cm wide, 13.5 cm high, and 13 cm deep.
This unusual stone with its various sized rounded section was collected in Emila Romagna, Italy, by Enny Gian Luigi. Enny found this stone while walking on a hill and was attracted to its rounded shapes, granular texture, weight, and very soft patina. He considers this to be a stone to caress for its soft appearance that creates a sense of peace and tranquility. It is a stone to relax the mind and body. This is a good stone to display in a more contemporary setting than in a more formal Japanese display. This stone was displayed in an exhibition at the 29th AIAS annual congress held in 2016 in Bondeno di Gonzaga and won first prize in the contemplative category.
The renewal of life is the message of this display by Sonny Armamento of Tanay in the Philippines. The form of this dark stone evokes an impression of a developing fetus; while the small pot and seedling coveys the start of a new plant. Both are striving to survive and have a meaningful start on Earth represented by the rustic board. Local materials from the Philippines were used to create this display. The stone is 23 cm wide, 36 cm tall (with base), and 10 cm deep
By Tom Elias
This display is a departure from traditional Japanese methods of displaying a hut stone in a shallow wood base or in a suiban with moss. This three-piece arrangement attempts to convey a home on an old mountain top that has been eroded to a rounded top. “Mountain retreat” consists of a natural stone on top, a hallowed wood burl representing a mountain, and a shallow wood base representing the land around the base of the mountain. The natural hut shaped stone was collected by Santo Burrato in Trentino Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. The burl and base was made by Patrick Metiva following a suggestion by Tom Elias. A subtle path leading from the base to the top of this mountain was carved on the burl.
Journey to the West
By Richard Turner
Display furniture for viewing stones in China, Korea, and Japan was adapted from existing sources. Ornately carved bases and stands for antiques, serving trays, low tables and the like were the models that stone collectors modified to suit their needs. This sculpture is inspired by the iconic furniture of mid-century modern designer George Nelson. It combines the suiban with the supporting table into a single form. The sand of a suiban, which often symbolizes water, is here replaced by wood that has been carved by a computer-guided device into a wave-like pattern. Just as a traditional Japanese style daiza might frame an American Eel River stone in a way that encourages the viewer to imagine a mountain range in Japan, so the sleek contemporary tray and rippling mahogany sea advocates for considering the waxed stone from Guangxi province, China, as an offshore rock outcropping one might glimpse driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway on a sunny afternoon. The title of this piece references the well-known 16th century Chinese novel of the same name.
The Last Phase
by Richard Turner
In China viewing stones are sometimes referred to as “the bones of the earth.” For this display we have chosen an especially skeletal piece of Chinese limestone and paired it with a moose antler. In terms of their respective cultural contexts, the two objects could hardly be more different from each other. The limestone has been carved to resemble a fabled Tai Hu stone, one of the most sought after and venerated stones in the Chinese collector’s hierarchy. The moose antler is a relic of the Old West. It is part and parcel of the American myth of the frontier. Both objects are, in their own ways, artifacts of bygone eras. Lake Tai, the original source of Tai Hu stones has been mined out long ago. The Old West exists only in films and on television. Death is the great leveler. In their twilight of their lives, the stone and the antler have found a comfortable companionship. The colors of the creamy limestone and the sun-bleached moose antler complement each other and the antler provides a cradle for the stone. Though on vastly different timelines, both objects are in states of disintegration. The days when the limestone was forming in a damp cave and the antler was a nub on the head of moose calf are long gone but an austere elegance remains. Each stage of life has its own beauty. This arrangement was made by Richard Turner, Thomas Elias and Paul Harris.
(Blue Tiger Stone)
This beautiful stone with a light green cast owned by Takiyama Norio originates from the Koutaro region of southern Hokkaido. It was placed in a traditional base, however, in a modern iteration of stone display, the stone and its base were placed on a small tatami mat enclosed in a dark hardwood frame which served as the display table, and in place of a traditional scroll as a background accessory, Takiyama used a wood screen as might be found over a Japanese doorway. This combination makes an effective display. The framed tatami mat is less costly than a custom-made table, yet it clearly identifies the stone with Japanese culture. This simple but elegant display may be more suitable for modern apartments and homes that lack the traditional tokonoma display space for art objects.
By Richard Turner
This stone is from the workshop of Sakurai Toshio in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. He is one of the few remaining artisans who enhance stones to create specimens that rival the beauty of natural viewing stones. This stone was purchased as a work-in-progress with the intent of preserving a glimpse into Sakurai’s creative process. Sakurai selected the original stone for its potential as a classic asymmetrical mountain peak rising above the surrounding foothills. Details of the texture have been roughed out with a grinder. Subsequent stages in the process would include refining these details with cold chisels, sandblasting and acid-washing. In this stage of its enhancement the stone suggests a mountain that has been brutalized by irresponsible logging or otherwise unsustainable environmental practices. This was not, of course, Sakurai’s aim.
A contemporary display can be made by combining traditional elements in new ways. Here, a Chinese Lingbi stone is used as a brush rest that is paired with a 1799 Japanese book Kyoto’s Wonderful Landscape Scenes. It is not unusual to find a Chinese stone in a Japanese scholar’s studio. This stone and book illustrate the strong link between these two elements. Writers and artists began publishing books about stone appreciation and their use in homes and gardens approximately 1,000 years ago and continue to do so to the present. Others composed poetry about stones or rendered paintings of them, often adorned with calligraphy. These products of scholars’ efforts were instrumental in building cross-cultural influences between these two Asian countries. Now, both books and stones have spread to all corners of the world as more people embrace stone appreciation.