More often than not, the word “art” is treated as an umbrella term that encompasses different streams and genres of aesthetics, painting, sculpture, music, and dance. As humans, from cavemen to the newfangled contemporary artists, explicitly or implicitly, there lies a common thread of passion and exigency to record and narrate a story.
As a student of art history, a majority of my time is devoted to analyzing this innate, creative disposition. It is fairly well known that only a trifling sum of art and its theory shows up in any popular classroom material. The purpose of this article is to unravel how “art” and it’s different epithets make for a heavy chunk of my life and ultimately, the world as we know it.
By that measure, traditional, hand-drawn artwork is always a good place to start. Not too long ago, the concept of zentangles and mandalas peaked on popular artist hubs like Pinterest and my participation was no less. What started off as doodles at the back of a notebook grew into full-sized, back damaging works, spanning over a thousand square centimeters.
To those of you who are new to this, Mandalas are mostly religious and are perceived to be cosmic diagrams, meant to represent the structure of life via intricate details arranged geometrically, often concentrically.
While my work bears no religious connotations, I do like the idea that it translates to something that colossal.
Here’s what my work usually looks like:
PS: I’m not as patient as this would lead you to believe.
My interest in art transformed from creating to the theoretical aspect of it through my course at art school. “Art History” as a name happens to be pretty misleading as the subject features history and contemporary studies in equal parts.
A glimpse of this sweet contrast is the subjects I work with-- The Renaissance, Far Eastern Art, Temple Architecture, Museum Studies, and Performance Art.
The following segment can be fairly theoretical but, bear with me. What’s the point of learning so much if I can’t share my two cents with you?
I’ve decided to add images from some of the aforementioned topics so the next time someone mentions art, you don’t have to shy away from it :)
A. The Renaissance:
European Art has a multitude of styles/genres like the Renaissance, Impressionism, Cubism, Modernism, Baroque, and Rococo. While all these topics are troves of art and literature, a global crowd favorite is the Renaissance. The Renaissance is the artistic, political, social, and cultural rebirth of the Middle Ages that spanned over from the 14th-17th century.
If you know the Renaissance for artists like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, these great men shared the limelight with Nicolaus Copernicus, Willian Shakespeare, and Rene Descatres-- great scientists, writers, mathematicians, and philosophers.
Here are two of the most popular works to come out of this period- David and Mona Lisa, both adapted to suit the pandemic :)
B. Far Eastern Art
Far Eastern Art is a term used for the art of China, Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This term, obviously coined by the Europeans, is also referred to as "Oriental Art" a term the Asian art fraternity has expressed bouts of dissent towards in recent times.
Most of this art, at some point or the other, features Buddhist art from thangkas (mandalas) to murals depicting popular tales like Mara Vijaya, Maya Devi's dream, or Buddha as Shakyasimha.
These are paintings of Buddha in the Tushita heaven from China, Thailand, and Japan. Notice how they’ve adapted the iconography and facial features of Budhha into their native form?
C. Performance Art:
A lot of confusion fosters between “Performance Art” and “Performing Arts”. The line of contrast is that Performance art refers to artwork or art exhibition created through actions executed by the artist or other participants. It may be live, through documentation, spontaneously or written, presented to the public.
An example of this is Rhythm 0. Marina Abromović arranged a variety of objects in front of her — a rose, a feather, a knife, a gun, and more. Visitors were allowed to poke her, prod her, and do anything else with the objects she provided. The purpose of this was to bring to light the darker side of mankind. Through her performance, she was also held at gunpoint by a man who loaded the gun before him and held it to her head.
Marina Abromović after Rhythm 0 in 1974
Performing Arts, on the other hand, is something that tends towards common knowledge— dancing, theatre, and singing among others.
While this article is just fleeting bullet points from streams of art that people invest their whole lives into, I hope it ignites an interest to read and learn about art, artists, and the complex socio-political undertones each piece carries with it.
Art gives you the front-row tickets to revolution and you’re invited.
Art Historian | Writer