Thursday, July 18, 2019

Art & History Essay

Confucianism and Daoism were the dominant moral, religious and political doctrines in China for many centuries. As in the case with Catholicism and Orthodox Church, which significantly influenced the development of arts, Confucianism and Daoism formed many of Chinese artistic currents. Confucianism and Daoism influenced Chinese art in various ways. First of all, their impact on visual arts refers to the usage of moral and philosophical themes in Chinese paintings. The Confucian moral themes, which were often included into such paintings, include the relations between members of family (respect for wife and parents etc. ), obedience to authorities. This is particularly true of the paintings by Gu Kaizhi, such as Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies and Wise and Benevolent Women, which portray different social situations and proper ways of social behavior. The latter is a primary trait of Confucian moral philosophy. Taoist moral and philosophical insights are evident in the paintings of Huang Gongwang, who was a Taoist priest. For instance, his painting named Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains created in 1350 uses traditional Taoist art form of landscape painting, which best transmits the spiritual character of Taoism and its preoccupation with harmony of people and nature. Using black ink, Huang Gongwang tried to portray the presence of Tao spirit in everything and its power represented in mountains. Moreover, it should be noted that Huang Gongwang, following Taoist and partially Confucian tradition, does not limit himself to painting of bare mountains, but portrays ‘dwelling’ as the symbolic Taoist practice of cognition and ethical behavior (Cooper and Cooper 87-90). Confucianism had strong influence not only on Chinese fine arts, but architecture as well. For instance, famous Forbidden City is a perfect realization of Confucian principles of hierarchy in society and family. Forbidden City is a 720000 square meters imperial court complex with nearly 10000 rooms. The Emperor’s private and official area was situated at the front of the City and the large halls for ceremonial and official purposes were constructed on the high platforms, which stretched from south to north. The whole official construction, hence, was located in the center of Forbidden City, manifesting the respect for and magnificence of imperial power (Ho 43-46). The rest of the buildings, including emperor’s wives houses, were located outside of the central axis. 2. Tea ceremony (cha no yu), which was important cultural phenomenon in Japan since its inception, significantly influenced the development of Japanese visual arts through the wabi-sabi aesthetics, which is characterized by simplicity of forms, asymmetry and naturalism. The development of visual arts was particularly influenced by Takeno Joo, who elaborated the doctrine of ichi-go ichi-e, which pays attention to the unique nature of every tea meeting and every thing in general. This concept was essentially based on the notions of harmony and purity. Wabi-Sabi aesthetics is particularly evident in the interior of Taian teahouse in Myokian Temple near Kyoto, created by famous master Sen no Rikyu during Momoyama period (1573-1615). One of the basic points of Sen no Rikyu philosophy, which also was essentially influenced by Zen-Buddhism, was the perception of ordinary objects’ spiritual value and simplicity of beauty. Taian teahouse is very small (only 1. 8 meters) with tatami mats, where host and guests sat. Closed and narrow space was designed to make the process of tea ceremony more concentrated and intense in order to maintain its solemn and spiritual character. The interior’s space is fixed with a small door, called nijiri-guchi, designed to make the tearoom look bigger. The tearoom also has a niche called Tokonama with a hanging scroll with minor and simple decorations, making emphasis on purity and austerity of a tea ceremony (Pitelka 165). The traditional tea ceremony tools such as teabowls, flower containers, lid rests were also modernized by Sen no Rikyu, who designed them in correspondence with the demands of wabi-sabi aesthetics. Another notable example of tea ceremony’s influence on Japanese arts is Katsura Imperial Villa, built during 1624 and 1645 years, and considered to be an extraordinary combination of imperial court style and wabi-sabi canons. Stroll gardens, which were designed in the Villa, represent clear destination of the path, were accurately graveled, embellished by stones and bridges and garden buildings located along the paths. It is noteworthy that water was always to a viewer’s right, which created an effect of division between different spheres of nature and postulated their divine and unique character. Gardens of the Villa represented the idealized vision of natural lakes and rocks, trees and even various buildings and teahouses were developed in a way emphasizing nature’s power and simplicity. 3. The duality as opposed to monism or syncretism was among the basic characteristics of religious worldviews of many civilizations, including Aztec civilization. First of all, the concept of duality was applied to different spheres of universe – the earthly life was contrasted with heavenly life, the power of emperor was contrasted with the power of gods etc. There is no denying the importance of the fact, that the theme of duality played important role in Aztec architecture and Aztec Great Temple (Temple Mayor) is a vivid example of this. Built during Postclassical period of Mesoamerica (the construction began in the beginning of 14-th century) in Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, it represents some basic themes, peculiar to dualism. First of all, the theme of duality is represented in Temple’s conceptual purposes. It was dedicated to two Aztec gods – Tlaloc, a god of rain and farming, and Huitzilolochtli, a god of war. To realize this twofold dedication, two separate shrines for each of the gods were constructed at the top of the temple and separate staircases were designed. The temple is constructed in the traditional form of Aztec pyramid. As Kowalski notes, â€Å"From the Templo Mayor the four quarters of the universe and the cardinal points were partitioned. In its architectural form was expressed the concept of duality, and the mass of its basal platform subdivided into terraces incorporated the concept of different levels of ascent† (Kowalski 210). Apart from two-sided architectural structure of the Temple, it should be noted that it contained symbolical representation of duality between life and death. It was associated with the transition point for those who died naturally from earthly to the underground world called Mictlan. Hence, the Great Temple was a point, where cosmic levels united and provided access to the underworld. To sum it up, the themes of duality were realized in the Great Temple both in architectural and symbolic levels of Aztec culture. 4. Gender relations in Oceania societies found their full realization in the products of Oceania people’s culture. The majority of Oceania societies, including Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia tribes still have patriarchal societies and matriarchy is rare. Gender relations are symbolically embedded in various products of Oceania arts, which in their turn have strong functional connection with Oceania religious, spiritual and social rituals. For instance, Melanesian masks, which are one of the most complex forms of Melanesian art, play important ritual and gender role. As far as their design in concerned, these masks have much in common. The majority of them are covered with the bark cloth, which forms a certain background for painted symbols. The structure of masks is strengthened by coconut fronds or light woods. The masks are usually worn with various leaves, which are to conceal the nudity of the mask’s wearer. Those, who wear masks (called in Lakalai tribe valuku or tubuan) often engage in various performances of ritual and spiritual character. Masks play gender function as well, because only men in Melanesian societies are allowed to wear masks. Moreover, not every man is consecrated into the masks’ art, but only those that possess the biggest privileges and social power, that is tribe elders and initiated. Women and children play the role of spectators and victims in tribal mask performances. One of such rites include mapakuo (‘the head’) chasing women and children around Melanesian village and those whom he catches may be unlucky to be beaten with palm branches, sticks or punished in other ways. This rite, as we see, represents both gender and social power of men over their inferiors (Valentine 29-31). The spiritual role of masks in Melanesian societies is also very important. As Valentine notes, ‘Lakalai masking is a prime ceremonial expression of the traditional magico-religious system. It is intimately associated not only with sacred traditions of the past but also with present-day contacts between men and the spirit world’ (Valentine 48). The mystic element of mask art is also evident, because it keeps men’s identity in secrete and provides them with possibility to transform it in coherence with the laws of dramatic performance or ritual. It should be mentioned that Melanesian masks have strong ties with traditional crafts and Lakalai graphic arts. Another element of Oceania arts, which reveals gender roles and statuses, is the art of fetish objects, which exclusively belong to men and are designed to represent their masculine strength and control over women. Usually they are phallic symbols, which are presented in the form of trumpets, flutes or bullroarers. Bullroarers play crucial frightening role, which helps control the inferior members of community. As Gregor and Tuzin note with this respect, ‘They produce sounds, usually in deep registers, that are inherently dramatic and haunting. In being heard but not seen, these objects are perhaps ideal for conveying mystery and instilling fear in the naive listener’ (Gregor and Tuzin 317). These artistic and ritual symbols, hence, represent men’s power and hegemony and this is also proved by the fact that the ‘the most brutal punishments of all, rape and death, are meted out to women who see the flutes and bullroarers, and why the men often equate the act of women seeing the flutes with chaos and the destruction of society† (Gregor and Tuzin 318). 5. African art was for a long time interwoven with religion, which resulted in direct impact of ritual forms and traditions on African works of art. African art reflects religious content, and hence, may be conceptualized as ritualistic art. In its turn it results in specific type of relation between ritual, art and its objects. Ritual or mythological symbols may be embedded in art to amplify their divine meaning and vice versa – art meaning may be used to increase the appeal of rituals. For instance, Yoruba people (of West Africa) have their distinct art techniques of human body representation in sculptures and other variants of plastic art, which are deeply tied with their rituals and mythology. The majority of Yoruba’s sculptures of human body have disproportionate size of torso and head: Yoruba masters make sculptures’ head bigger, than normal human heads. It is explained by the fact, that Ori (‘head’) is the symbol of inner head, which unites Yoruba with a deity. Yoruba culture, therefore, considers head to be the most important part of human body (Lawal 499). For instance, female twin figure (ere ibeji), created in the first half of the 20-th century is totally disproportionate from traditional point of view. The head is significantly bigger than the other parts of the body, while the latter deviate from natural proportions. This is not the lack of art techniques, but conscious design to meet the demands of ritual procedures, which should follow the main canons of Yoruba religion. Another interesting cohesion between art and ritual in Yoruba culture is decoration of worship sites and sanctuaries of goddesses and gods. Various emblems, doors ornaments and sculptures form such ritual complex in Osun groove. Osun, which is the goddess of the River Osun, has her own symbols, including various pots (oru), beads and brass (ide). This cultural and ritual site is located in the forest, which traditionally was regarded as the home of spirits. Another example of African ritual art includes Jomooni (men) and Jonyeleni (women) figures, produced by Bamana culture of Mali. The figures bear both ritual and decorative function. The decorative function is represented by jewelry and the ritual one by their usage during rituals of Jo society (Colleyn and Laurie 19). The rituals include initiations, following living in the bush during a week. The ritual includes dances and performances, ritual baths, during which the presents are given to initiates by spectators. Works Cited Colleyn, Jean-Paul, and Laurie Ann Farrell. â€Å"Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali. † African Arts 34. 4 (2001): 16-27. Cooper, Rhonda and Cooper, Jeffrey. Masterpieces of Chinese Art. Todtri Productions, 1997. Gregor, Thomas A. , and Donald Tuzin, eds. Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia: An Exploration of the Comparative Method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001. Ho, Bronson. Splendors of China’s Forbidden City. London, Merrell Publishers, 2004. Kowalski, Jeff Karl, ed. Mesoamerican Architecture as a Cultural Symbol. New York, Oxford University Press, 1999. Lawal, Babatunde. â€Å"Aworan: Representing the Self and Its Metaphysical Other in Yoruba Art. † The Art Bulletin 83. 3 (2001): 498-516. Pitelka, Morgan, ed. Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice. London, Routledge Curzon, 2003. Valentine, C. A. Masks and Men in a Melanesian Society: The Valuku or Tubuan of the Lakalai of New Britain. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, 1961.

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