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Henk Fresen’s Japanese fingers.

It is fascinating to see that the art of exhibiting bonsai also continues to be developed in Europe. With increasing frequency one can note that with the help of Ten-Kē (decorations especially intended for bonsai) a special atmosphere is created around the tree.There is much that could be categorized as Ten-Kē, including accent plants, suiseki and sculptures. However, every element chosen for this purpose should only serve to stimulate the fantasy, and thereby grant the bonsai its own special splendor and radiance.Of course, one has to follow a few guiding principles in this respect, for example the season at the time of the exhibition. In the case of accent plants this will not cause too many problems because plants flowering in the summer will simply not be available for a show in the winter.However, it becomes a bit more difficult when we consider sculptures. Traditionally, sculptures carry their own specific meaning, such as cranes as classical winter symbols, and locusts, shellfish, and cormorants as symbols for the summer.Alternatively, sculptures can also be used to provide a reference to the natural habitat of the tree. One can imagine, for example, that circling birds of prey especially befit the Yamadori from the high mountains.

The possibilities to enhance that which one wants to emphasize are infinite.Artist and animal sculptor Henk Fresen nowadays creates very beautiful Ten-Kē fashioned in bronze and other materials. Although made in Europe, Fresen’s sculptures nevertheless convey a genuine Japanese ambience.Henk Fresen aan het werk tijdens patineren met een ijsvogelWhen asking the artist how he came to this particular craft, one is answered in a wave of enthusiasm.Henk Fresen has always been fascinated with the power of expression inherent in the poses of animals, and already as a child he attempted to capture this expression in clay sculptures. Because his father was a professional taxidermist, Henk Fresen very early on acquired the knowledge of animal anatomy that is required for a successful animal sculptor. With this background it is not surprising that Fresen made the step to professional sculpting.Consequently, HenkFresen’s sculptures have been exhibited in many different art galleries with much success. His enthusiasm for Japan and its many art forms guided him naturally to bonsai. He was therefore very happy that Mr. Hotsumi Terakawa became his mentor in this area. Mr.Terakawa, who was already familiar with Fresen’s professional activities as a sculptor, inspired him to turn his attention to Ten-Kē as well.

This was exactly the right idea: a means to mould into one element that so fascinated him. The search for the right material, that would also satisfy him as an artist was, however, not so easy. After all, each individual piece should have its own specific character, and in no case should they lose their individual distinctiveness. After a long search Henk Fresen chose bronze, of which each piece would have to be individually fashioned and patinated. This permits a wide range of colors, from bronze tinges to deep black, and in addition the material also allows the sculptures to be painted in natural colors.The only problem was to find a willing foundry that could deal with the minute details of the sculptures. After all, every piece would have to be produced separately, and either uniquely or in very limited numbers.

In all of the Netherlands there is only one foundry available suitable for this goal. Over time Fresen has created a remarkable series of Ten-Kē, and although each theme has been produced in limited numbers, each sculpture possesses each own distinctive details.

The primary source of inspiration for the sculptures is nature, but in conversations with bonsai enthusiasts very surprising ideas may surface, which, of course can be transformed into reality as well. In most of this instances the sculptures are intended for bigger trees, as is the case, for example, for the falcons or the owl I am working on at the moment.
It makes me very happy that my work provides so much joy for the people.
I am even a little bit proud Japanese people also value my work.
An older Japanese Lady once told me when she saw my work:

I cannot believe that you really made this yourself, but if you did, then you have Japanese fingers.