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Phil White

Cultural Differences and Art

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Guest Clive

Freda.. I see the tradition of netsuke as having developed beyond that of an exclusively Japanese tradition...I call my carvings netsuke not because they conform to any of the previous requirements and characteristics of that tradition, but because I believe they legitimately add another chapter to that tradition... one that accepts that 99% of contemporary netsuke will never be worn in the traditional manner and so in reality their primary contemporary function is to be fine miniature sculpture designed to be appreciated in the hand or sometimes worn around the neck.

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Freda, if I may. It seems to me that at the bottom of it, we are human and spring from the same root. If work affects us deeply, who's to say that's inappropriate? Conversely if we choose to use cultural gestures in our own work from across half the world, what makes that crude. Certainly respect must be paid to that culture, and care must be taken especially around the making of ritualistic objects. I think too much is made of the unbreachable cultural divides, which in fact I don't believe exist. I believe the essence of cosmopolitanism is respect and courtesy, not knowledge.

 

The goal to me is to tap into my imagination, fueled by the inner source, flavored by my experience and make work that I am moved to make.

 

As to studying skills it seems to me that as long as you are recognizing the need to grasp "basics" and pursuing those ends, one should be free to find their own sense of balance between skill and expression. Everyone will have a different rate and rhythm to their progression and it's not for anyone else but you to say. Again, some culture may seem to have a leg up in development, and we can certainly benefit from studying their work and technique, but again, it all springs from the same source. Also, I believe tradition is not a static thing; it is always evolving. Today's iconoclasts may be considered tomorrow to have added to the tradition. It's not up to us to say, today, who will be considered "traditional" tomorrow.

 

It's your love for the work, which you so well express, that will shine through, regardless of any cultural overlayment.

BTW, lovely wasp nest which I neglected to mention elsewhere.

 

cheers,

 

Jim

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Clive and Jim, many thanks for your comments. They help me to form a base from which to work and I certainly agree that respect needs to be paid to a tradition and its culture, if a carver borrows from it. Last year, I'd thought that I just needed help with carving; this year that seems to have expanded into ethics and a need for a wider understanding of cultures producing miniature carvings. Another proof that learning never really stops!

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my German friend carved original pieces of "Haida" better than the best pieces of Haida I've ever seen and finally a big oil executive bought the gallery just so he could purchase every piece of my friends work and by then it was quite pricey.

I must admit I've been trained to frown on "cultural appropriation" but if you are that good that the culture is looking to you for inspiration then what? and in a few years who cares? etc.

?So do what you wanna do? pour your heart into it and I expect the reward for the artist is the evolving the "doing" puts you through and the artifacts are simply the signposts one has left as mute testimony of ones path. julesy D

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and I love Freda's image of tiny toy soldiers, match box toys, snuff boxes, and all mini's stuffed into a netsuke sized basket. Please, some patient soul..venture into carving one!

My favourite works are when there is an element that is greater than the sum of the parts!

Then you've caught me! and that is one right there! julesy D

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I'm glad this topic has been opened up again.

Recently I have experienced my first interaction with this type of criticism... As a true novice carver (still under a year in real pursuit of carving) I was genuinely confused at this attitude, because I was exploring different carving styles, and materials with intent to learn about them. I have found certain groups take a serious offence to others adopting the indigenous style of the culture.

 

My particular question would be, for someone such as myself- what is my culture? How do I carve from my own cultural roots if they are barely existent or so colourful? My heritage is rather foggy. Some English, Italian, Scottish, Metis, a few others... None deeply rooted, and no particular religion. I am a mixed breed Canadian. Am I not to carve at all? Other more experienced carvers can be rather discouraging in this aspect. Recently I too decided to discontinue a particular carving style and do not desire to carve in this particular style any longer; though I strongly appreciate the artwork and the artists, most of whom I idolize and who have been extremely helpful and encouraging.

 

During my high school and some college years dedicated to fine arts I studied Indigenous pacific West-Coast art, more specifically Haida. It was always present either in the classroom or in general. I tried my hand at that style for the first time carving a few weeks ago. I do enjoy it. But this thread leads me to believe the dynamics are similar with all cultures.

 

It is really a confusing matter. I want to create with respect to the style and culture, but this seems a tedious endeavour.

 

I figure carving fish must be pretty safe hah ;).

 

 

 

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As a carver who is a six generation Canadian and a small part Swampy Cree, I felt the need to find my own style in what I do .I am however influenced by the native style of where I live on the west coast . Traditional art is always moving forward . Some of the most succesful west coast native carvers are by blood Metis . I call myself a Metis with pride and my work is in native art galleries.My work is excepted and bought by those looking for native art and I feel right about that .My believes are more toward the native way . I smudge with sage , say thanks to the spirits and live in the woods .

 

Bruce

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Enjoyed seeing your carvings Tony! There's something almost primal about the designs that strikes a chord and causes a smile! Highly accessible images have allot of appeal !

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Hello Phil, when I get some time on this box I will read all of the posts on this thread, but I have read many of them already and would not normally post before reading them all, however consider that we are all culturally mixed either by location of descent or enviornment ( learned behavior) etc).

 

I did see that you were planning not to do any west coast style art or carvings, please stick with it, I would like to purchase one of your west coast style carvings in the future , you do beautiful work and I FIND IT VERY INSPIRING.

 

I have friends that also work in styles that they are not biologically related to but are well accepted by the peers.

You'll see links to them in the future.

Please take a look at what has happened in NZ and is now a National treasured style!

 

"Beautiful things comes from beautiful people and having an artful heart will always take you there".

 

Cheers Mate!

Tom

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well there are rules. and alothough i like your piece it isnt with in the rules..now ive carved with some first nations even helped with a few totems but i wont carve in that style anymore,wich is why im finding my niche so difficult to find..i spent a good ten years studing west coast stlye...

 

dont get me wrong im not putting your work down... its good..

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Hi everyone,

 

It is rather a huge subject and I guess everyone has his personal opinion. I, personally, don't think that art should have any rigid rules, and that the most important is how a person is approaching a cultural style, with respect everything is all right in my opinion. But...what do I know...;)

Somehow the following link is for me an answer to this debate.

http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/302281/detail/

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Christophe, WOW! That was quite a lot of information in just a few moments of time. It was also quite an interesting comparison and juxtaposition of sculptures from our human history. Thank you.

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As there is a lot of interest on this site regarding cultural styles and art I thought that I may share a link to a documentary available for viewing online, http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/te-irikura/all-episodes?page=1

It may help give some insight, for those interested, into a Maori perspective, regarding the creative processes involved, and the cultural/ spiritual significance associated with not only the Arts and crafts but also the materials used in Aotearoa.

Whilst most of the narrative is in Te reo , it is subtitled and I believe informative.

Personally I take the interest and appreciation shown in the way my Tipuna, my ancestors ,expressed themselves,as a sign of respect, something to take pride in, so I don't personally see an issue with others incorporating Maori themes and design in their mahi, their work.

Lol, I don't think you have to be Chinese to become fluent in mandarin :) I mean,like, Aotearoa has lots kiwi's that may not be of Maori descent, but are well and truly capable,regarding the creation of Taonga that has presence,that any Maori would be honored to wear,own and pass on. Billy is a perfect example of that !

I was always told and taught that the act of creating something , anything really, that you put part of yourself into,deserves respect, regardless of whether or not one is learning or an accomplished artisan. Others more learned than I, may disagree, but providing there is a certain amount of sensitivity and appreciation involved I don't see an issue. Human artistic expression is a field of endeavor that has no place for racial discrimination or elitism.

Bearing in mind tho' that Taonga specifically made for an individual,telling a story about that individual, where they are from and who they are,can become quite personal to that individual. So the idea of copying "one off items" is somewhere I personally wouldn't go simply out of respect for the owner, the artisan, the relationship between the two and of course the piece itself.

There is deeply personal significance ,the importance and depth of which cannot be expressed in words, regarding those works of " Art " that depict specific Tipuna, specific ancestors. These are more than what is commonly viewed as "art " they provide a medium through which those that we love and respect, those that have gone before us,interact, in our world, with us, a sometimes very personal and spiritual an interaction that goes both ways..

Anyway just a few thoughts, I hope some find the tv series of interest .

Mace. .

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This is a great topic, cant believe i didnt find it till now.

Being of no particular decent Ive often felt compelled to carve in my own style rather than to adopt indigenous styles. I use whale tails and cross overs from maori themes, but only because I feel comfortable with them as a form of artistic expression. I have to be inspired and what I make has to mean something to me, whales are an animal Ive seen and transcend many cultures, a fish hook or hei-tiki for example doesn't mean anything to me, a spiral I would use but not to represent a fern etc. Basically it has to mean something to me, regardless of which culture its from.

 

I have often felt though that the cultural motifs would provide the framework for the carving, ie if your maori and you wanted to make a mania then there are characteristics that you know you need to apply, like knowing the words to speak the language. It looks like a mania and carries the cultural significance that goes with it. Much like carving an animal that people recognise. Ive often felt that this framework would be useful for expanding my techniques, both in design and in the carving itself.

 

As for copying peoples work. Ive been inspired by peoples work and have generally adapted it to be more "me" if I just carve a copy which I find easy to do then often I dont feel very happy with the shape and style. Regardless of which culture its from. One only needs to look through the work of contemporary jade carvers to see the repeating themes not derived from any indigenous or cultural themes. Lilly flowers, pod and seed, warrior stones, mobius strips, to name a few.

 

I was told aboriginal stories when I was growing up. I lived next to a fantastic painter and anthropologist who use to study aboriginal rock paintings. He was also an author and illustrator writing books detailing aboriginal stories- He was of european descent. So these stories are things Ive been brought up with. However it is very taboo to draw in the dotwork styles of aboriginals here in Australia if you are not one! There are many art galleries in my area and studios but they are only for indigenous people! There are art competitions here also run by the galleries but again one needs to be indigenous to enter. Funny thing for me is that the indigenous people dont care that Im not indigenous, its the white Australians that run the shows that care!

 

Recently Ive been playing around with ideas for carvings, my own interpretation of aboriginal spirits and mythology and Im not sure if I will actually carve any of them.

 

As an aside, the area I live in experiences a strong tourist season and I sell some of my carvings though a souvenir shop. I have a little artist bio with my carvings but nowhere do I say what my heritage is. Tourists come looking to buy local artwork (by local they mean indigenous) if they knew I was of european descent I would not sell anything!

 

Maybe today I will take a maori design and make it my own....

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I have avoided this on purpose as I have had this conversation too many times with different people. I am a descendant of early European settlers in NZ and have close family ties to several Iwi (Maori tribes). I do not fell the need to justify my participation in Maori art. It has surrounded me all along, and I have been warmly welcome by Maori in practicing the art. If fact, my main client base is Maori who use me to create carvings for themselves or their families, to pass down to future generations. To them, my European heritage is irrelevant.

 

I did become interested in this conversation after Lachlan's entry about the Australian indigenous culture. Now that I am living here I have taken great interest in Aboriginal art and have even had a go at their painting style as a progression in my own art journey. I have made many inquiries about the protocol around their arts and have been met with mixed responses.

 

I do not wish to sell paintings under any false pretenses, but I look at it as an important progression on my art experience. I did however come across some interesting information when researching Aboriginal art.

 

Geoffrey Bardon, a European arts teacher, was instrumental in creating the Aboriginal art of the Western Desert movement. Early whalers influenced Maori in their materials and techniques in bone carving. The progression of almost all art movements in the world have been brought together by many cultures. I do not think twice about a Maori doing oil on canvas as my ancestors may have done. I see them progress their own Maori style in a new medium creating a new line of art. Why would they have a problem with me carving?

 

Anyway. That's my little piece. I have not read every entry so i do apologise if this area has already been covered.

 

Kia ora, Billy.

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Bardon didnt do the paintings though, he merely encouraged a change in medium. Torres strait islanders love their lino prints, not traditional at all but the designs are culturally relevant. Adopting an aboriginal style is seen as biopiracy in Oz.

 

 

These links summarise the taboo in Oz:

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/487880/aboriginal-art-uproar/

http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/arts/aboriginal-art-authenticity

 

I think calling it aboriginal art is in a way racist, they create the same as anyone; their creations are based on their influences whether it be animals or culture. If one is exposed to the same influences I see no problem working in that style. I do feel its a stigma that in my country has made me wary of adopting other indigenous styles.

 

I guess what I feel is one can carve what ever they want, however there does need to be respect of culturally significant material. I would carve more maori style designs (or any other culture for that matter) if I new more about the culture and could give motifs the respect they deserve- so its my own ignorance that I can blame for that :D

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My mention of Bardon was simply to strengthen my point that the mixture of cultures has influenced the paths of many art styles.

 

If you are referring to my reference of the term 'Aboriginal art' being racist, then I am a little offended. I feel you have insinuated that my reference is culturally insensitive and ignorant.

 

Can you tell me by what I should refer to their art as? Surely the unique beauty of their style deserves it's own name. Art is an extremely general term. Each form of art needs a context does it not?

 

Billy.

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No not your comment, sorry should have made that clear. None of the above was aimed at you Billy.

 

I use the term so do plenty of others, just it implies to me that one must be aboriginal to produce it. Not sure when I would call it.

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Fair enough Lachlan. Thanks for clearing that up.

 

I guess they are aptly named to represent their origins. Most art styles of the pacific rim have a very distinct style. Japanese, Australian, NZ, all have a unique form of art that it might be seen as inappropriate to label it under a more general name.

 

Anyway. I am learning more about 'Aboriginal art', to make sure I understand the symbolism involved. I have already seen similarities to Maori art in the philosophies and uses of motifs and symbols. But as I said, it's purely a stepping stone to an art place I feel more comfortable.

 

Kia ora, Billy.

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I didnt read all of the comments and replies, but this topic actually bothers me on some level...I never thought one could steal art from another it just doesnt occur to me in my head. I know artist adopt or utilize methods designs and what ever else to put into thier personal repritoir or tool box, it isnt out of disrespect or to exploit. I know some people refuse anything "un authentic" its no worries perhapse the piece of art isnt for them after all. personaly ive been adopted into different tribes and my talent dose not include being able to carve some of the beautiful things of each culture, it does not mean that i am any less or more. I am different. I am a crafts person too and thats how i am seen..it is enough. Ok, if people put a copyright on thier art what good would it do, its like trying to copyright a tattoo or get this, DNA how does one get these ideas? one just cant steal art unless there is a price tag and is owned by someone else and non-owner takes it without permission then thats stealing art. I get worked up about this because i feel as if the art is some how not good enough when in all truth it is. when a culture or society accepts the art from a non-native how can so many people be wrong?

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I am new to carving and still trying to find my own style. What I'm doing now is built on all my past experience. Each rock that I carve, each tool I use, each video I watch, each art gallery I visit and each post on TCP changes me and my art. I love Shona carvings but the ones that speak to me the loudest have that mid century modern look.

 

http://www.accentsfo...zimbabwe09.html

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