Asian Art

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Asian art has fascinated the world at large since the 13th century travels of Marco Polo. Within two centuries fascination became obsession. Motifs featuring phoenixes and dragons were highly sought after. Chinese porcelain, Japanese woodcuts, and finely drawn Asian botanical studies were all the rage. Not much has changed in 500 years, and Asian art continues to be immensely popular.

Of course specifics vary between countries--and within genres. However, there are certain identifying traits to nearly all traditional Asian art. Among these characteristics is the importance of compositional space, the unification of shape and proportion, the use of color and light, and the use of defining line.

Asian Art: General Themes

Asian art history explores two main themes: the cultural and the spiritual. Broad examples of "cultural art" could include landscapes, ancestor portraits, and botanical studies. The specific culture's influence would be found in design, material, subject and technique, making one region's art distinctive from another.

The spiritual aspect of art, however, crosses geographic boundaries. Despite the fact that one culture might prefer ceramics while another excels in brush painting, the primary subject could be the same spiritual symbol. Representations of Buddha and Hindu gods appear in the art from nearly all Asian communities. As a result, in spiritual Asian art, the terminology is based not on the region, but on the religious subject: Buddhist art, Hindu art, Islamic art, etc.


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