It is with very deep sadness that I bring the news of the passing of Paul Goff.
As I write this, I am still in disbelief as Paul was not an acquaintance, he was a dear friend. I did not see Paul on a regular basis like you do with some friends, but it was always great to catch up with him. He always addressed me as ‘squire’. I can hear him now, “and how are we today squire”?
Born in 1952, Paul’s life has always involved creativity and he was talented in many different art forms.
Most of you will know Paul from his company, ‘Bonsai Presentations’ through which Paul made bonsai videos, published books on bonsai and more recently made beautiful scrolls for bonsai display. But Paul was much more than that.
The first time I saw one of Paul’s scrolls, in one of his displays in his own Tokonoma at home, I had the idea to invite Paul to put on a display using one of his scrolls at the “Joy of Bonsai” at the Bath Pavillion. Paul was a humble guy, and he seemed quite surprised when I called him up and invited him to display his Scots Pine at JOB. Then I explained that I wanted him to put on his display using a scroll. I explained to him that at that time people were only using accent/companion plants with bonsai. We were not seeing scrolls, suiseki or bronze sculptures (Ten Kei). And I thought it was the right time to introduce people to the concept. Paul ‘got it’ straight away. So although a little apprehensive as to how his display would be perceived and received, Paul put on a beautiful display at the “Joy of Bonsai”. It was the only display that featured a scroll, and the rest is history.
On that day, he made people take notice, to think, to rethink and go away with new ideas.
Now everyone is using Paul’s scrolls. All hand made by Paul and all the illustrations painted by Paul. What a talent.
Paul and I regularly discussed display. I remember once buying a load of ‘Wabi’ magazines produced by Seijie Morimae. They were beautifully produced as you would expect coming from Japan. And they featured beautiful examples of bonsai display and I immediately thought of Paul. When they arrived I called Paul to ask if he would be interested in seeing them. “Thank you for the thought ‘Squire’ but I have most of them. I’m just missing the odd copy”. He was already in front of me, that was Paul. Always looking for information and ideas.
Paul was a heavy rock guy, playing guitar in a ‘”Kiss” style band. He could draw and he could paint in different mediums and on a varied subject matter. He was a great photographer and his photos complemented many bonsai books. Harry Tomlinson’s book is a great example of Paul’s work as well as the “Best of British Bonsai” book 1. It was not just Paul’s skill that impressed me. When we put on the first BOBB event at Birmingham botanical gardens it was his professionalism that also impressed me and his politeness and patience with some very impatient exhibitors who thought they should be first.
Paul gave great talks on display and he would gladly use his own Tokonama to give people a better insight into display. If you visited Paul to buy scrolls or inserts for scrolls, again Paul’s advice was always free and flowing. He loved to share, a true gentleman. Some of you may have also been fortunate to have had one of Paul’s photographic talk/demos at your bonsai club. Again his skill and his enthusiasm rubbed off.
Last weekend I gave a talk on bonsai display for the Stourbridge Bonsai Society, and going through all my items before hand, I remembered that I was three scrolls and several inserts down.
(One of the problems of letting people borrow items for their displays and then over time forgetting who you loaned them too).
I said to myself I will get this week out of the way and then I must contact my old mate ‘Goffy’ as I couldn’t afford to be down on my own display items.
The talk on display was on Sunday 9th November. Paul passed away on Monday 10th.
I have spent a couple of hours going through my collection of scrolls and inserts today, and I found myself looking at each scroll, and each individual painting of Paul’s much more intently. I realised how lucky I am to have examples of Paul’s work to remember him by, and how lucky I was to be able to call him my friend.
I could go on for hours talking about Paul or telling stories. Like the time he and I spent a couple of hours in his hotel room in Belgium one evening after tea, looking at scrolls. And then the banter from other diners that followed as we returned to the bar together. Maybe another time.
My thoughts go out to Vivienne his lovely partner and the rest of his family.
Paul Goff, musician, artist, bonsai artist, photographer, gentleman and friend.
God bless you Goffy!