Fun fact! I am finishing my art minor through my ceramic work at Clay Station (I don't know if I've previously mentioned that). I am creating tiles and tea sets traditional Scandinavian and Indian design. To represent the world current merge of ideas and skills, I am making a final set of pieces that mixes elements from these cultures. Here are a few tiles that show the inspiration image (top) paired with my ceramic tile (bottom).
The principles of dedication and divinity that are regarded in Indian art are the foundation of Indian culture. For a moment, return to the my last post's brief discussion on education. In India, education means dedicated learning through repetition. The Indian girl and I studied for her exams through repetitious memorization. Dedication is also present in family structure, because each person should uphold his duty to support family throughout life. From a religious aspect, 80% of the Indian population is Hindu. The Hindu yearly calendar is saturated with rich festivals, including temple visits, pujas, and chanted mantras from religious texts. The 330 million gods host countless myths that take a dedicated lifetime to discover and longer to internalize. Through lifetimes devotion of the details, there is a promise of enlightenment. Now, flash back to art. Like these cultural phenomenon, the Indian design regards detail, repetition, and divinity.
In comparison, Scandinavian art represents the cultural principles of valuing the optimization of detail and simplicity, novelty, and nature. The optimization and novelty can be seen within Scandinavian innovation, with Denmark, Sweden and Finland make the world’s top 10 innovative countries: 9th, 5th, and 4th respectively. The society has a progressive ideas on the environment, gender equality, and education. Being a largely areligious society, it is better to look at Scandinavia’s principles educational principles for this comparison with India. In Scandinavia, you will seldom find a traditional school system. In Finnish schools, the hours are cut in half, there is little homework, no standardized tests, and a 50-minute recess. Additionally all three principles can be seen in Scandinavian forest preschools which allow children to enjoy, to experience, and to understand the world around them. Both of these school systems critically assess the purpose of a school system with respect to child development. Education is detailed yet simplistic enough, and it's progressive.
I didn't focus of American art in this ceramics project, mainly because I am not able to simply define this art. Currently, the US supports freedom of choice and secularism; there are 'short-term narratives' that define American lives, there culture is to 'live for the weekend' (paraphrased from discussions at MacLaurinCSF). Similarly, there are few limits in art: art should be novel or short-termed. Art can be for art's sake. I believe that this level of choice can be paralyzing. Alain de Botton (philosopher, TED talk 'Atheism 2.0') put it well, "Art should not be for art's sake. Art should be about something. What is there to love? What is there to fear or hate? Museums are our new cathedrals." Art should not be too ambiguous.
Ideally, I think art would combine the Scandinavian and Indian principles: dedicated work, regional or cultural significance (i.e. deities/tradition, nature), balance between simple and complex, and innovation. Art should connect people with the senses and ideas of the artist. It should not tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. (And to answer the 'chicken or the egg' question in the title, I think that the majority of art is a reflection of culture.)
Thanks for reading.
(Also! Disclaimer: Please note that I not an expert in any of these areas, but I do really like thinking about art and how cultures relate - let me know if anything is off.)