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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Non Western Art

Charlie and I are working on a Non-Western Art project... We've decided to look at Chinese Art, Japanese Art, and African Art (Kenya, Ethiopia). I used to find my references.

Japanese art has had a long history, and therefore has plenty of different types of art. They use sculpture in wood, pottery, paint on paper and silk, and pottery work - to just list a few general mediums that they use. When one examines Japanese and Chinese art, one would find them both relatively similar in medium, and style - this is from the shared culture only until Japan turned away in the 9th century. Much of Japan's art contains an ink for the medium, where brushes were used as the main tool for writing and artistic expression. Japanese sculptures had contained many religous meanings and expressions, while many paintings contained stories within the pictures. The paintings that I've decided to examine were taken from the Muromachi period and the Azuchi-Momoyama art period. In the Muromachi period, there were major changes within the central government and art was given a more elitist character. These paintings began to take on colours - something that wasnt as evident from past periods as they consisted of more black and white works. The paintings that I'm examining have very simple line work where detail doesn't seem to be a major concern. However, the works are still able to show a strong resemblance to its original character. Also it could be said that background details and foreground details are not too much of a concern, but rather the figures themselves were the main concern of artists. Both periods seem to enjoy using a combination of panels to display the full work.
Azuchi-Momoyama art seems more detial oriented, lines are still single thin lines that provide all the detail. It is similar to the Muromachi in that it uses more colour but backgrounds are given more attention to compared to Muromachi. Backgrounds seem to share a yellowish tint. Space in this period seems to be reduced as there is a more extensive use of the paper. Empty spaces are taken up with paint. The shapes of the trees are very abnormal, but the shape created is amazing at the same time, where much of the tree is constantly moving, twisting in a different direciton.

Chinese art like Japanese art has changed a lot over the years, where this was influenced by the leaders of the time, teachers, religious figures, and philosophers. Mediums included in Chinese art had paper folding, pottery, ink paintings, and sculpture.
Works included were from the Tang Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. Tang dynasty works included many paintings of people, where line work was very simple. Single, thin lines where used to create the image of the individuals. in parts of teh picture. Many of these works were religious symbols and/or "court paintings". Here, background was not seemingly important, but the figures were. Instead, many artists put text into the painting often describing the scene of the work or the overall setting. This also included tradional Chinese poems. Later developed was the idea of landscape paintings. Landscape works contianed very similar characteristics as the figurative works as they had thin, single lines, but plenty of them. These landscape works were extremely detailed and often used black ink. Often these works have a lot of detail in an area, and a large empty space on another side of the work. Colours used were in small quantities and were not very diverse.
The Ming dynasty was very diverse in that many new techniques were created. More colours were used in this time, but it was very similar to the Tang dynasty works. These works have plenty of detail, but use simple lines and once again show strong foreground detail and contains little to no background. Landscaping also became more popular in this time, where more colours would be used and more space was taken up.

African art was just as diverse as the above two. Sculpture, painting, pottery making, and basketweaving was huge in many parts of Africa - in particular Kenya and Ethiopia. Like the above two countries, Kenya and Ethiopia concentrated on the human form. These imitations of the human form were influenced by the living and dead, gods, chiefs, dancers, and tradesmen. Many works were visual abstractions that had added a twist on the natural human form. Paintings in African art were very colourful and left little space on the picture plane. This significantly differed from Chinese and Japanese art. Many of these works utilized a slightly thicker line, but nonetheless only single lines at a time. Very specific details are not usually included, but general lines within the figure are able to represent the human form very well within African paintings.

Additional Questions:
1. Motifs?
Japanese: Thin lines, little use of colour, not extremely detailed (but still very effective)...Often displays the human form or nature (mountains in particular)
Chinese: Thin lines, some use of colour, not too detailed... Also likes to show the human form as well as mountains.. Artists also liked to show the form of varkious animals such as birds and horses.
African: Lots of sculpture, but for paintings, there is usually quite a bit of abstraction of the human figure. REpetitive patterns are also very common. Plenty of colour is used.
2. These motifs had generally not changed that much. Only until recently, with contemporary art have these motifs really changed. Most of these motifs apply for many hundreds of years with the selected works.
3. The human figure has been a major part of all three cultures. All cultures have sulpted it, drawn it, or painted it - except in different ways, using differnet techniques. African art usually depicts the human figure with some distortions to certain proportions.
4. Certain artworks would have different motifs. My first picture (China) shows a woman with a scroll. A motif here would be the human form. Here one can see that there is a very empty, plain background, which is frequently seen in many works. My other picture from China shows multiple human figures. This is centered around religion - the buddha in particular. My two Japanese works (both with a yellow background), show once again teh human form, but also a relatively bland, appealing background. The two african works, one depicts architectural work, while the other displays the human figure.


Images within our final piece were completely drawn from previous images that had been imprinted in our heads from the different cultures that we had researched. We had not directly used certain pictures as exact references. We had made a short list of the different techniques that had been constantly used in each respective country's art. We had used this to try and apply it to each painting.
We had begun this project with few difficulties, as we had plenty of ideas, perhaps too many as we tried to apply them to paper. When doin so, we had discovered that some of them did not actually work. Not only that, but also we didn't necessarily agree with each other on how to create our final piece. We had discussed the idea of making a sculpture, with carvings including everything from the three countries chosen. We also considered doing a large panel painting - something similar to what was done last year. In the end we decided on consturcitng some sort of scroll, but even there we had not fully decided on what we wanted to do. In the beginning I had hoped to work on a lengthy piece of rice paper primarily with black ink. From there, I hoped to use little colour in certain areas to really contrast the black and white. However, this did not work out 100% well mostly because of small changes in preferences in ideas and the materials that we had. We had chosen to use the bright yellow paper that was very different from what was originally proposed, so we had to continue to adapt and change our ideas and direction as we had created our project. From here, we decided that instead of doing a giant single-piece we chose to divide it into 5 sections. We initially hoped to set up a long scroll similar to that of the "man who drew Rome from the helicopter", but we later decided against it, and we instead divided it up into 5 different panels. These panels would then contain five different pictures each depicting a different, but inter-connected scenes. Although we recognized the importance of people in non-western motifs, we had decided against it for we had felt that it may not have matched with the landscapes (also major motifs) and animals that we intended to have within the piece. We at last decided on the first 3 panels: one being a black and white tree with some coloured leaves, the next being a mountainous region with coloured in buildings, and thirdly Mount Kilimanjaro. We spent some time before deciding on adding a giraffe on the fourth panel. Again, what we had tried to achieve was a black and white background, contrasted with slight colours. What we did next was create borders using painted tape to divide up the panels as many Japanese artists had done (not necessarily with tape though, but rather by folds). With some of the panels, we had tried to do some copy and paste work, by taking out stencils of mountains, hills, and animals to hopefully find a way to fit them in. We had wanted to take a slightly different approach to just plain painting. This had worked well for us as we were able to incorporate a giraffe stencil, a mount kilimanjaro stencil, and a large bird. For the fifth panel, we had ultimately scrapped it after finding no suitable idea to truly fit with what we had had on the scroll already. After this, we had begun considering more ways to display our work - considering keeping the scroll as one piece, or as multiple pieces, shredded, or hanged. We went with the idea of shredding it into horizontal pieces where we could place it with a black background. However, in the end this did not materialize and we ended up hanging it up with a copper wire structure to support it. We had ended up using a combination of India Ink, paper cutouts, acrylic paint, copper wire, spraypaint, and yellow paper to form the entire piece. The idea of shredding the pieces had come from Ms. Cockburn, where Charlie and I had slightly refined it to create a structure similar to that of blinds. This effect gave our previous scroll a new effect, and a new way to look upon it.

This overall project had taken considerable amounts of time as it was also extremely vague at the beginning, and both Charlie and I did not know where to start. By researching a few countries, we had eventually selected China, Japan, and African Art, where we had a good general idea of what we needed to do. However, this had changed countless times as we attempted to do the project, which is why we may have taken so long. It was sometimes discouraging with some of the mishaps that we had in that we had to constantly adapt and change our ideas. I felt that Charlie and I both had tried very hard on our first project with no guidlines. However, I feel that the final outcome was not as amazing as I had first hoped for. With the extreme amounts of brainstorming and the number of times we had changed ideas in this project, I do wonder if we may have thought too hard about some things, which ultimately slowed us down and perhaps confused us. We both felt that the works had looked much better on their own when we had cut up each individual panel. It seemed as if the unity of the entire piece seemed to be missing somewhat. This may have been due to too much colour used at some points and then at others, too little colour was used. We had tried to keep the lines consistent just like the motifs of our selected countries - having many small, thin lines to create the desired image. We were able to achieve this, in all four of the panels. We had also tried to include the Northern African patterns seen often in their art within all the pieces, however this did not work out too well as it seemed to ruin the unity in the piece. What we did instead was put the patterns into separate panels, which we thought looked more aethetically pleasing in comparison to covering all pieces with pattern work. With the selection of pictures used in the project, we had thought of commonly expressed scenes in each panel, hence the tree, the bird, mountains, kilimanjaro, and the giraffe. With these works we tried to set them up similar to the previous pictures that we had seen - having plenty of empty space. We had tried to fill in a main focal point (the tree, the mountain range, kilimanjaro, the giraffe) and leave as much room as possible. We were also able to add in some forms of texture in the form of spraypaint and paper cutouts. This gave the picture a slightly rougher feel rather than a completely smooth outcome. What gives it even more of a 3d texture is the way it was set up in the end. We had cut up all the pieces horizontally in the end, but with the cutouts, instead of glueing it to a black mayfair, we had instead glued them together to hang together with copper wire. This design gives the work far more of a 3D feel to it.

*Sorry about the pictures, they were impossible to move down.

I thought that the project was relatively difficult, but also exciting. The chance to work with Charlie was extremely satisfying and the vague outline of the project allowed us to explore several options. Especially witht the African, Japanese, and Chinese motifs, these broad spectrums of art gave us plenty to work with, if not too much. The amount of effort seemingly put into one idea was often "used up" rather quickly, as they would not materialize after we had tried to implement it. This had caused some frustrations with both Charlie and I because this had slowed us down. However I believe that it was also quite successful in the way that we had worked. We both had continuously fought and stayed with the setbacks that we had and we were still able to create a worthwhile final piece.

Figurative Drawings