Re: Religions or east&west?

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Posted by Sophia Gates on February 03, 1999 at 19:30:06:

In Reply to: Re: Religions or east&west? posted by Erol Abit on February 03, 1999 at 07:42:48:

Apart from the Arab influence on European carpets, I wonder if they weren't conceived and designed, not as "art", but as floor coverings. Hence, European designers, who clearly regarded tapestries as art, and produced many with people as the central theme, did not regard those same themes as appropriate for the floor. Just a thought - I've been thinking about this since I made my post last night, and was troubled by the same thought/observation that Steve made.

As far as airplanes are concerned, it could be argued that their invention (by Westerners)is an extension of the humanist philosophy/self-image. I loved Erol's metaphor of rising sun/setting sun!

Also, while it is certainly true that Chinese, Japanese and Persian artists painted figures, and Indian artists glorified them, it is equally true that they revered nature and portrayed it lovingly. Although there have been many great landscape painters in the Western tradition, it wasn't until the Romantics of the 19th century that nature was truly portrayed as equal to or greater than man. This was also the century in which Western artists began, en masse, to be influenced heavily by Oriental artists, although of course there had been a mutual exchange of ideas for centuries, since the days of ancient Greece at least. Even the great naturalist Audubon drew upon Chinese and Japanese art, basing not only his compositions on theirs, but also drawing inspiration from their detailed observation of the tiniest and humblest of animals and plants. (It is so ironic that the 19th century also saw the tremendous of acceleration of industrialization, technology, and other forms of progress which now threaten our very planet.)

Finally, a thought regarding "Islamic art". I would argue that, while there certainly is art that is specifically Islamic, just as there is Christian art, we might more properly refer to most of the art we discuss as "art of the Islamic world." This may seem like a meaningless distinction, but I think we need to be clear in our thinking and communication, and recognize the fact that, important as Islam is, it is a relative newcomer to the region. Artistic as well as religious and cultural traditions survive in Asia, which predate Islam by millenia. Also, as others have pointed out, especially Erol, Islam is hardly a monolith. There are many sects, many shades and levels of devotion, and they may influence artistic production to a greater or lesser extent.

Best wishes, Sophia

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