Friday, October 9, 2009

False Discord

When looking at non-western art, someone with a western frame of mind should keep an open mind. It is especially apparent in Indian art that preconceived ideas can cause confusion. One has to remember that symbols in non-western art do not necessarily mean the same thing has they do in western art. Fire in Indian art is a great example of this cause of confusion. As a western viewer, fire would seem to be a destructive force often associated with the devil. In Indian art it seems to have a much different connotation. Not only are there symbols that change between cultures, but some items are often used as symbols that are not usually used in western cultures. The lotus is featured in Buddhist art with some different meanings. "The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment." (Exotic India). I feel most western viewers would not see that being the meaning behind a lotus. The point of this post is to remind everyone to keep an open mind when viewing a different culture's art. Do not immediately apply your own culture's ideas and traditions to another culture's art. It takes some research to get a better understanding of another culture's art.

For Indian art this page has a lot of good information on symbols.

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