普普藝術(Pop Art)大師安迪・沃荷(Andy Warhol)的回顧大展《From A to B and back again》在舊金山現代藝術博物館SFMOMA剛剛落下帷幕。這是自1989年以來首次其創作生涯的總回顧展。去逝32年後，安迪・沃荷仍然是20世紀後半葉最具影響力、知名度、顛覆性，和最接近大眾文化的藝術家。歷時近4個月的展期，場館內每日都是人潮湧動。超過300幅作品，涵蓋藝術家40年的創作生涯。展出作品包含繪畫、素描、手稿、絲網印刷、攝影、膠片、電視紀錄多種媒介。其中多間展廳集中展出他的名人肖像，瑪麗蓮・夢露(Marilyn Monroe)，貓王(Elvis Presley)，伊莉莎白・泰勒(Liz Taylor)，賈桂琳・甘迺迪(Jacqueline Kennedy)，毛澤東，最有趣的作品是藝術家的自畫像。這些肖像畫大多創作於60年代，也是安迪・沃荷高產和成名的時代。
和安迪・沃荷巨大的知名度與商業成功相對，對他“無藝術”、“無新意”、“商業畫家”的批評持續了幾個世代。評論家羅伯特・休斯(Robert Hughes)形容沃荷“是他見過的最蠢的人，因為他什麼想法也沒有”。威廉・德・庫寧(Willem de Kooning)毫無掩飾地批評他“摧毀了藝術，摧毀了美，甚至摧毀了幽默”。安迪・沃荷作為藝術家最大的爭議來源於他對商業毫不掩飾的熱烈擁抱。關於生意和藝術他的名言很多：“商業上的成功是最令人著迷的藝術，”他曾這樣說。“賺錢是藝術，工作是藝術，成功的生意則是最棒的藝術。”安迪・沃荷的名人肖像畫更是他生意經中重要的一部分。拋棄現代主義對真實和高尚的追求，他不吝惜地大量生產複製這些畫像。帶著面孔的畫布商品令一切人性扁平化，這些他創造出來的商品化的表象人格(Commodified Personas)是他獲取和享受名利場的工具，令他可以在消費主義這個框架下探索成功、聲望、時尚、感性、死亡。
興起於1910年代的達達主義(Dadaism)令藝術和藝術創作有了非常不同的面貌。與其說達達是反藝術的，不如說這場挑戰中產階級感性基礎的運動對藝術創作的藝術性部分有了更廣闊的註解. 不僅是何謂藝術，何謂藝術家這些問題是達達主義關注的問題，藝術思維的演化，藝術品的誕生這類完全動態的領域也是其挑戰的對象。相應的，在技法上，達達運動引入了偶然/隨機(chance)並視之為創作中心，“chance became our trademark. We followed it like a compass.” 一次世界大戰對於西方文明自啟蒙以來的秩序和理性形成巨大衝擊，而藝術，一直以來作為有意識的運用想像力的美學創作，其精心規劃和完成的創作理念在達達一代看來是完全可以顛覆的藝術范式(artistic norms)。偶然、隨機、無意識，這些帶有无法预测性質的，与人类的自我意志无关的元素和藝術聯結到了一起，成為前衛藝術的重要形式。
In theory, Mughal emperors pursued a policy of religious tolerance and openness to non-shari’a religious ideas, however, an opposite tendency contesting the inclusive tradition was always present. Scholar Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was one of the opponents against the imperial policy. He insisted the necessity of attack upon the heterodox and the non-Muslim. He criticized Akbar in his letters to the notables and students. When Jahangir ascended the throne, the tension was accelerated by the emperor prisoning Sirhindi. A more critical viewpoint was from theologian Bada’uni. He was strongly opposed to Hindu and Shia sect. In his Muntakhab at-tawarikh, his charge against Akbar’s religious innovation was severe. Plus, in the court, far from harmony and stability, wars of succession happened in every transition of Mughal power, and the imperial power of the rulers were constantly challenged. For example, rivalry between prince Salim and his son Khusrau last from the time of Akbar to Salim’s accession as emperor Jahangir. In the hope of succeeding his grandfather’s throne, Khusrau initiated a rebellion in 1606. Overall, conflicts and oppositions were present throughout the history of Mughal Empire. The utopian visions were brought by the non-shari’a oriented Mughal rulers and partially realized, but cannot be fully achieved.
In such a context, the manuscript painting served as a heterotopic space where an apparent attempt at Mughal utopia was represented. Foucault presented the notion of heterotopia first in a lecture in 1967 pointing out that some places interrupt or subvert the ordinary everyday space, literally “other places”. Heterotopic sites are the actual spaces of difference in which the utopia is effectively enacted. Heterotopic sites are present in every culture, Foucault writes, they can have multiple or changing functions; they can bring together several incompatible things as a microcosm; they can juxtapose time across time or enclose time in an immobile place. In short, heterotopia are spaces of alternative spatial and social relations where difference is both encountered and ordered. Continue reading “Mughal Series|Utopian Visions In Mughal Painting [B]”→
The hallmarks of the Mughal Empire were the cultural diffusion and religious tolerance. The Mughal emperors, except Aurangzeb believed in harmonious co-existence of Hindu and Muslim. The inclusive religious and political views of the Mughals have shaped the Indian cultural landscape for hundreds of years yet the source of these views is little researched, or they are given full attribution to the forwarding thinking Emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605). Many books have been devoted to the study of his status as a divinely illumined ruler in Akbarnama and Ain-i Akbari, the annual recounting of events of his period. Akbar’s personality and his ideology were carefully examined. He has been identified as the real founder of the Mughal Empire who brought the ideas of religious tolerance and inclusive style of rulership to the vast empire. With a similar emphasis, art historians have drawn attention to Akbar’s intellectual role in the emerging Mughal artistic style and his great influence on the composite culture of the Empire.
However, the relevance of some post-Mongol akhlaq digests for the discussion of medieval Indian politics and rulership cannot be denied. Akhlaq is the most commonly used Islamic term for morality. As the “signs” of God the creator, the akhlaq digests with discourses on ethical virtue provided moral guidance on codes of behavior. One widely read akhlaq circulated in Mughal India was the Nasirean Ethics (Akhlaq-i Nasiri) written by celebrated Muslim philosopher and scientist Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274). The book was one of the most highly esteemed on ethics, economics and politics in the medieval Persianate world. It provided a synthesis of the Greek philosophical tradition and the Islamic view of man and society. Also the book presented an idealistic vision on kingship and civil state. After it was introduced in Mughal India, its social and political norms shaped the structure of Mughal empire building.
By examining Tusi’s idea of creating an ideal Muslim community, this paper will argue for the possibility of a Mughal utopia in medieval India. Historian Monica Juneja explored a number of aspects of the utopian thinking within the space of Mughal visual representation in her article “On the margins of Utopia – One more look at Mughal Painting”. She traced various utopian visions in literature, and attributed the harmonious concord of the Mughal Empire to the European influence and Quranic notions of Paradise. Taking Juneja’s study as a starting point, this paper will use the utopian thinking in Western civilization since Thomas More’s Utopia to explore the impact of Nasirean norms of governance and ideal society on the Mughal conception of utopia. Moreover, the paper aims to discover the Mughal vision of utopian ideal within the space of painting from imperial illustrated manuscript. Distinguished from the utopian notion of an imagined future, this study will point out that Mughal painted realm is a space where the concrete appearance of Nasirean ideals occurred. Continue reading “Mughal Series|Utopian Visions in Mughal Painting [A]”→
Unlike his father, Jahangir’s commissions of hunting scenes did not concentrate on actions and movement. Instead, human personalities and individuality are emphasized. Jahangir inherited Akbar’s royal library and workshop, and dismissed a number of painters. His atelier was smaller than that of his father due to his higher standards. To Jahangir, his passion for the observation of the nature affected his artistic taste. His interest in animals and plants was shown in the paintings of his period. He observed the beauty of flowers and the precious birds he saw in Kashmir. He ordered the artists to paint pictures of them. He is considered as the connoisseur among the Mughal rulers. One single artist with greater responsibility in the workshop determined the final appearance of a painting, which made artist’s individuality shown in the painting more possible. Like his predecessors, Jahangir was eager to claim his Timurid heritage. The inscription on a monumental column he erected in 1605 tells Jahangir’s lineage down to Timur. Though during Jahangir’s reign, the empire was stable, the Mughal legitimacy was still needed to be established. Linking his rule to Timurid tradition underlines his divine kingship and undoubted power.
Jahangir is an emperor with a complex personality. He was a keen naturalist, who studied animals and precious birds when he was traveling in his kingdom. Two cranes were taken to his court at the age of one month, and given the names of Layla and Majnun who are the tragic lovers of Persian literature. Jahangir devoted himself studying the cranes from their daily routine, mating, to the hatching of the eggs, and all details were carefully recorded. On the other side, he loved killing animals. In 1617, he listed 28,532 animals killed by him at the age of fifty, including mountain goat, sheep and deer, wolves, wild fox and boar, pigeons, hawks, pelicans, a total of 86 lions, 3473 crows and 10 crocodiles. Continue reading “Mughal Series|An Examination of Mughal Hunting Scenes (Part B Jahangir and Shah Jahan)”→
Problems of Power, Imperial Identity, and the Central Asian Legacy
The majority of contemporary studies of Mughal painting present its changes in style and artistic tradition. The studied paintings have been seen examples of historical narrative and visualized text. However, the fact that many illustrations are generically appropriate for describing the adjacent text tells Mughal painting cannot be fully comprehended in this way. Unlike most book-length studies and articles that examine the identification and comparison of styles, in the article “The Hierarchical Principles of Shah-Jahani Painting”, Ebba Koch argues that the Shah-Jahani manuscripts were created not merely for an aesthetic purpose, but explored to political ends, to create programmatic statements of order and hierarchy, a driving force which was not supposed to change throughout the paintings created under his reign. The examination of Shah Jahani painting within the power structure of the emperor’s rule provides an integrative approach that uncovers the political and ideological concepts in Mughal painting. For example, the darbar scenes (court scenes) under the reign of Akbar are depicted as small private meetings and figures are given a sense of movement in the architectural settings. In contrast, the same theme of painting from Shah Jahan’s time is shown as an ever-repeated and standardized image. According to Ebba Koch, this change in the court style is purposeful since the artistic aspects of Shah Jahani painting were highly regulated towards the emperor’s imperial ideology.
Taking Ebba Koch’s notion of power structure as a starting point, this article is going to examine another recurring theme in Mughal painting, the royal hunt, by looking at the dynamics of power structure through their imperial identity. This study seeks to incorporate the Central Asian legacy of Mughals and the concept of sacred kingship into the exploration of qualities of leadership to reveal the different self-realizations of Mughal emperors. Continue reading “Mughal Series|An Examination of Mughal Hunting Scenes (Part A Intro and Akbar)”→
Western or Eastern? A Review of “My Name Is Red” from an art historicalPerspective
“I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning.”
The drawing of a tree, a copy of one of the illustrations for Enishte Effendi’s book, points out a recurring conflict in the novel “My Name Is Red” between art as representation of the world that God perceives, and art as depiction of the world which naked eye sees. In the world of Islamic art, the artists ought to create images stick to the text and the meaning of the world God created, so the tree on a single sheet laments that he lost his meaning without being a part of a book. When Enishte tells Black what Ottoman miniatures are, he says, “the images are the story’s blossoming in color” (Pamuk, 26). The images function as words to tell the story. Many people even think calligraphy should outweigh images in importance, disparage painting as flirtations with heresy. Continue reading “Review|The History of Miniature Painting in “My Name Is Red””→
A Study of a Water-moon Guanyin statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Guanyin, is the Chinese name for Avalokitesvara, the Buddhist deity of compassion, who was created by the end of the sixth century as independent figures because Guanyin became a deity to lead souls to afterlife, to give prosperity, and more importantly to give childbearing. A set of Guanyins known as the Thirty-three Guanyins were represented widely cross China along with the popularity of the imagery. The water-moon Guanyin, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the “water-moon” form, is best known as one of the Thirty-three Guanyins favored by Chan and literati painters since the Song Dynasty (Yu 2001: 233). Examples in painting as well as sculptures are discovered from China, Korea, and Japan over centuries. This article is going to explore a statue of water-moon Guanyin of early Ming by examining its artistic characteristics, patronage, as well as the cult of water-moon Guanyin in late imperial China.
In 1971 Cornelius Chang published a dissertation on paintings of the water-moon Guanyin. He examined the cult of Guanyin by studying indigenous scriptures and miracle tales and specifically analyzing the iconography of the water-moon Guanyin through four earliest paintings at Dun Huang that had been discovered by Stein from 1906 to 1908. By approaching the issue of artistic domestication, Chang claimed that the simplicity of the expression of Guanyin had an appeal for the followers of the Chan sect of Buddhism in Asia, so an evolution in style happened.
Other exciting writings of Chinese Guanyin mainly explore the translation of Avalokitesvara from Indian and Central Asia to China as a compassionate deity, the popularity of Guanyin among all levels of society, the deity’s various manifestations, and the everyday worship of Bodhisattvas in China. However, a critical analysis of the water-moon Guanyin in late imperial china lacks. As a period when multiple religions flourished, a study of a popular deity is necessary. Continue reading “Buddhist Art|The Cult and the Iconography of the Water-moon Guanyin”→
The study of Mughal painting first became an interest for scholars during the colonial period in the eighteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the interest was further enhanced by the rich collections of Mughal painting in Europe and America. The naturalism in the Mughal style gained admirations from the collectors in the West, as Pramod Chandra explained: “its relative naturalism proving fairly acceptable to early collectors and students whose preferences reflected, for the most part, the pervasiveness of Western taste at the time.” Besides the pictorial quality, the foreign origin of Mughal art also made it acceptable for the colonizers to prove their cultural superiority over the Indians. Later in the twentieth century, shaped by the Western art historical approaches, interpretative frameworks for studying Mughal painting were established. Basic methodologies had been applied and became concentrations of the art historical practice in 1920s and 1930s such as connoisseurship and formal analysis. Since then, art historians had changed their interest from the European influence to the “interaction of Mughal and European art”. Not only was the impact of the European style on Mughal paintings the focus, the exchange between cultures was also investigated. After the independence (1947), a nationalist art historical perspective had been widely adopted by scholars in India due to the Nehruvian modern nationalism. In the 60s and 70s, scholars began to adapt the frameworks to the Mughal context. They still primarily concentrated on the style and the connoisseurship, but placed the paintings in the Mughal context in which art works were produced and appreciated. In recent decades, the contextual approach has been used by Mughal art historians. The viewpoint of studying Mughal art on its own terms is prevalent. Building context for Mughal painting is the focus of the Mughal academic society.