Chinese Art
EEM 03 - 10 - 2010

Throughout our stay in China, we got to experience several cultural heritage museums in Shanghai, Xian and Beijing that gave us a more rounded approach to not only the design of the built environment, but also how some of the same design principles applied at a smaller scale. I did a series of "object studies", where I sketched and analyzed the figures, artistic forms and statues/artwork from the ancient culture. I noticed through doing this that there are a lot of indicative elements of their value system, repetitive elements found at large and small scales, and even religious implications that link the culture, built environment and artwork together under one symmetry. The first sketch is one that I did in the Xian museum. It is of a Chinese horseman that was found in the terracotta warrior pit. The expression on his face is serious, and he is one of the thousands of unique figures in a sea of underground armies. The proportioning of both the figure and his horse is very robust; with very "earthy" volumes, and an emphasis of sturdiness and presence. The bottom legs are disproportionate to the rest of the body, either for structural reasons, or to emphasis the connection of body to earth. (The "base" of anything is the sturdiest element) The entirety of the figure has presence, and is a lawful combination of both the geometric forms with organic liberties. This fundamental design principle is also present in several of the gardens we experienced in Shizou and in Shanghai. The second sketch is of a Buddha statue from the suspended temple in Datong. This immense statue was very intense, and showed a warrior posed with armor adorned with faces and symbols. This artwork was obviously for iconic representation of religious purpose, and reflected how important religious icons were in the architecture, landscape and artwork. Both of these statues were built in response to a religious belief of the afterlife and in a style that was very fluid. I noticed by observing some of the icons and statue figures, I was able to see a greater idea of what Chinese style and culture was about because design happens on all levels in a society. The greater message I was able to take from this analysis was how ingrained culture, order, religion and nature were in Chinese history, and how the evidence in their artifacts had greater implications of order and hierarchy in their built environment and cultural customs.

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