Thursday, October 2, 2008

Art History: Art with a capital A: History with a capital H: How old is Art?

The day after I posted the previous blog about Art, I presented it in my Art History class with much approval from the rest of the class. Afterwards I had an in depth talk with the teacher who is a fan of this kind of art with hopes to better understand it.

She explained that much of the Modern Art paintings featured in these museums featuring one color or printed onto the canvas by an artist are not supposed to be appreciated as a subject, but appreciated as a 'poke' at art. With this understanding I can appreciate it.

Much of the point of pieces such as the 'Green' canvas I make reference to could actually be making the point that we shouldn't care about the brush strokes of the artist, nor should we have the response 'oooo this is a Van Gogh painting' because when it all comes right down to it, it's just a damn painting. Why do we stick these people on a pedestal?

Duchamp's 'Fountain'
A little poke at how Art is perceived

I can respect this aspect of Modern Art as a poke at the rest of the art genres, but I still disagree on a level. I retain the point I made about the chair in my previous post. Though I can appreciate the design qualities of a chair as art, I don't quite think it belongs in a museum because it has no statement to make.

A fair majority of the art that inspires me is from many ages past. People invested their time and soul into these pieces without individual gratitude for the completion. They believed that the only gratitude that they received would be from the god they honored or the historical figure that now resides in the underworld (Achilles or Odysseus for example).

A major difference between art in this era and art from ages past is individuality. Egyptian art is all the same. Changing that art would get you killed. It was not the art of the artist, but the art of Egypt. Same with many other civilizations featuring religious art. Art was supposed to remind you of the religion or the person and the story surrounding that person. So in order to truly appreciate this art, you must know the stories.

For example: A stain glass window of Jesus or Mary is worthless to the person who doesn't know anything about the Bible.

The misconception is often made that 'art' as we see it today did not exist until a couple hundred years ago. Art was not appreciated as an individual's creation until recently. To me, this is untrue.

A scene featuring the Qin Emperor in 'HERO'
The very title of this film is a play on calligraphy
in that the word Hero in Chinese calligraphy is both plural and singular.

During the era of the Qin Emperor in China (about 220 BC, the same era as Alexander the Great) calligraphy was being appreciated as the individual's artistic accomplishment (The Qin Emperor saw himself as an artist and a philosopher as well as a ruler). People would look to calligraphy to understand the writer/artist in a number of aspects. Calligraphy was supposed to reveal a number of things about the artist's subconscious, including the artist's skill with a weapon. People would travel great distances to fetch a single word to be painted by a famous calligrapher.

Expanding upon that, China also recognized martial arts as the individual's artistic accomplishment. China was constantly streamlining the ability to fight along with the schools of thought behind fighting. We can't look at these original pieces of art today because they have disappeared with the bodies of those who created them, but we can see the art piece itself surviving with those being taught martial arts.

Guan Yu: Martial Artist from about 200 AD.
Creator of the weapon 'Black Dragon'

Many moves in martial arts and scrolls of calligraphy can be considered the oldest forms of individual art, yet none of them are appreciated in museums because this form of art has been mostly glossed over as far as appreciation is concerned.

I've noticed that History with a Capital H is also an issue here. History seems to ignore Asia when considering accomplishments. As a matter of fact, it tends to ignore everywhere but Europe. This is probably one of the reasons that no one quite understands China today. History rarely gives China credit for discovering the crossbow, chrome plating, or in this case, individual art.

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