Comparison of Social and Formal Distinctions of Artwork from Different Cultures
Art is a form of expression that is unique and different in different cultures and nationalities. Through the use of different types of art forms and artwork, artists continue to express their distinct position in the society. Across different jurisdictions in the world and in many different cultures and societies, people have used and continue to use art as a way of expression and as a way of depicting their way of life. The reasons for creation of the art work and the purpose of the art was also considerably different based on the societies and cultures in which the art itself is being applied. Form recreational art, religious art, art to commemorate and appreciate persons of stature to art for purely aesthetic purposes; it appears that there has been continuously multiple reasons as why different cultures and societies would be involved in the creation of art forms in the first place.
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The differences in the types of artwork in existence can be depicted through analysis of art in different stages of history as well as art based on the geographical locations from where it comes from. This study will investigate the inherent differences that exist with regard to the creation of art based on geographical location. A concise comparison of; European Renaissance Art, Asian Japanese and Ancient Egyptian art will be carried out so as to bring out the essential differences that manifest in relation to the style and form of the art culture in these regions.
European Renaissance Art
European art, also known as Western Art has gone through multiple steps and changes over time. There are multiple stages in history in which this kind of art can be explained through. These stages include; medieval, renaissance, mannerism, baroque, romanticism, realism, modern and contemporary art (Hahn, 2012). Every stage of this forms of art work tend to encompass a unique culture, form and type of art representation. The renaissance art is therefore, a period of art representation that developed in Italy from about 1400. The type of representation emerged and thrived throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in Europe where it brought out a new era and form in artistic representation. This is based on the increased awareness of matters related to nature and a new perception where man was viewed as being individualistic and not based on a generalization. The art form can also be seen to be a depiction of the new stage of awareness that the society was going through such as the social and economic changes of the secularization of life, social mobility and a rise of an economy based on rationalism.
The techniques applied in the renaissance form of European art are quite unique. These include; the formalization of use of proportion (Baxdall, 1974). This is a creation of visual relationship between the objects found in the forms of art. The use of foreshortening was also frequently applied where lines were drawn throughout the paintings, to create an illusion of depth. Italian Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci, also introduced the application of the sfumato technique which is the use of a blurring and softening technique to allow blending in tone throughout the painting. Most of the artwork that emerged during this period therefore, represented most of these aspects and it became a style related to European art, in the long run. Below is an example of an European Renaissance art work by Leonardo da Vinci which depicts the aforementioned elements.
Salvator Mundi by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, dated to c. 1500
Asian Japanese Art
One of the prevailing aspect that emerges from Asian art is the fact that it draws influence concepts from various cultures and religions. Also known as Eastern art, Asian art is quite expansive has levels of expressionism and depiction of culture. The difference types of Asian art can be grouped into; Buddhist, Korean, Indian, Nepalese, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Laotian culture and many more. Generalizing it as Asian culture therefore, fails to deliver on the finer details of purpose, styles and general intention and application of different types of art (Rupert, 2011). Japanese art is expansive and includes; sculpting, ink painting, calligraphy and aspects such as origami and the modern form of art, Manga. Painting is the most preferred form of expression and involves a set of very unique polarities. One of the technique that tends to stand out is the application of motif with heavy symbolic significance. The culture of the Japanese people reliance significantly on aspects of symbolism and the presence of these symbols allows a better understanding of the culture (Miyeko, 2000). Another significant and interesting aspect that comes up in Japanese art work is the use of miniature expression and minimalism. A fixation of garden designs and the use of multiple colors is also another significant aspect that stands out in the representation of Japanese art. Most of these works resemble humble melancholy, tranquility and meditation practices. Below is an example of Japanese Asian art.
Cypress Trees Byōbu, folding screen by Kanō Eitoku, 1590
Ancient Egyptian Art
Egypt is a country in North Africa that is also regarded as being part of the Middle East. Ancient Egypt includes a civilization that was significantly fixated and interested in matters of art and expressionism. Their paintings, sculptures, architecture dates back from 3000 BC to 30 AD where a high level of growth and depiction can be seen in the development of their art work. A number of things stands out from the Ancient Egyptian artwork. This especially involves a highly stylized and symbolic mode of depiction. Most of the artwork was done as a way of representing and depicting the socioeconomic system of the region as well as showing their belief system. The artwork also a very distinctive figure convention. This is where there is aspect of hierarchical proportion where the sizes of the figures and objects end up showing and depicting the status and importance of the people (Stevenson & Simpson, 1998). The representation of the gods and the divine pharaohs was done through the use of big figures while on the other hand, servants and other members of the society were represented using smaller and minimalistic depictions. The paintings of animal and people were one in a way that shows the profile and side view, at the same time. The predominantly used colors include; black, yellow, gold, green, blue and red. Most of the paintings were of scenes of hunting and fishing, and those of important gods and people in the society. One interesting thing about the painting style is that it lacked a sense of depth. The picture below is an example of the art created by Ancient Egyptians.
Wall Painting of Queen Nefertari
As shown, different cultures tend to have inherently different types of art forms. This manifests in the form of art itself, the medium used and the message and purpose that is the group of people within the community needs to communicate in the first place. Western, Eastern and middle eastern societies encompass a very different type of culture and way of life. The fact that art is meant to depict and communicate the way of life of the people living in that period in time therefore, means that the end result would be completely different. An example is in relation to the purpose and inspiration that is behind the art in the first place.
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For most of the highlighted Japanese art work, the pieces intended to communicate aspects of tranquility and calmness. Aspects of meditation were significantly depicted through the different pieces of art. The use of minimalism and very toned down colors was also meant to provide the calming effect to anyone that looks at it. (Rupert, 2011). The Japanese have an ancient culture of meditation and a continued valuing of tranquility and a piece of mind. This is why these aspects therefore, tend to heavily come up in the different forms of art works in this culture. This can further have been seen in the continued use of nature and water in the paintings. This is yet another way that the aspect of peace of mind and tranquility is essentially highlighted when it comes to art work, especially through the use of paintings.
On the other hand, renaissance art work continues to be used to depict the society and way of life that had sprung up during this period. This is where there was a heavy manifestation and borrowing from what the people were going through during the 14th to the 16th centuries. The art depicted a change in history where people were basically shifting from the middle ages to aspects of modernity. This involved a period of increased awareness which in the long run, allowed the paintings to show a much more individualistic perspective of man (Baxdall, 1974). The purpose of most of this art created during the renaissance period was mostly decorative. It was meant to improve the aesthetics of a place and have therefore, been primarily used in places and institutions of great significance to the people. This for instance, was seen in the installation of the art work in churches and cathedrals so as to give the interesting and decorative factor that was needed. Compared to the Asian (Japanese) art work, the renaissance art work was not subtle or minimalistic. The intention was to give out a wow-factor hence the use of deep and defines lines and depictions of the characters.
Lastly, the Egyptian art was extremely different and interesting. Even in the time period of the ancient Egyptians, the development of art was quite significant and impressive. This is where the depictions of their way of life such as fishing activities was very rampant. Showing important figures in the society also happens to be a vital aspect of the art work done by the ancient Egyptians (Stevenson & Simpson, 1998). Art therefore, appeared to be something synonymous to respect and admiration where the most important gods and people were depicted through the use of huge figures while the subjects were depicted as being small and puny.
All these aspects represent the inherent differences that manifest when it comes to the issues of art and culture where the way of life is significantly represented in the different forms of artistic expressions by the people.
As shown, there were indeed, significant depictions of culture and the way of life of people through the use of art work. The inherent differences of the Asian (Japanese), European (renaissance) and the Middle Eastern (Egyptian) cultures, has been depicted in the artwork
- Baxandall M. (1974). Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy.
- Hahn, J (2012). “Prehistoric Europe: Paleolithic 3. Portable art.” Oxford Art.
- Rupert A. (2011). Modernism and the Museum: Asian, African and Pacific Art and the London Avant Garde. Oxford University Press.
- Miyeko, M. (2000). Bridge of dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke collection of Japanese art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870999419.
- Stevenson, S. &, Simpson, W. (1998). The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, 3rd edn. 1998, Yale University Press (Penguin/Yale History of Art).
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