Here is something I often wonder…
Painting, sketching, drawing etc. are means by which people express themselves… it could be a representation of their thoughts or it could be a depiction of what their eyes see. Of course, at times art is symbolic but that isn’t what I am considering when I talk about what I do in this post. I am not considering abstract art either.
Artists for ever have depicted day to day scenarios and general scenery along with the more religious or ritualistic art. The artists of the Renaissance or even some of them earlier on were able to paint, sketch, draw and sculpt realistic images (with some artistic liberties, of course.) Some of the artists of today create hyper-realistic artwork… it is like looking at a photograph (only because it is a 2D image.) But when we go back to the ancient civilizations and not as far as cavemen… the art work though spectacular is very stylized and not realistic in anyway. In fact, the styling of the artwork is what mostly distinguishes them as belonging to a certain civilization. I am excluding cave art from this because well, the supplies and time were definitely limited for leisurely artwork what with the struggle for survival on a daily basis… and they weren’t exactly civilized back in the day.
So, why aren’t there any realistic art from that ancient civilized age? Why is all artwork conforming to a panel like style which seems to be quite common across civilizations… there is a that lack of depth to the images, a lack of perception in its literal sense. If you were to sketch a scenery while looking at it most people, even kids, would have a tendency to create the illusion of depth by making far away things look smaller and the ones nearby larger because that is how our eyes perceive the scene. Well, unless you are a toddler who finds it difficult to wrap your head around the idea of depth your image wouldn’t consist of mostly all objects (or people) of the same size irrespective of their relative placement in the scene. Then why is that most ancient art looks like exceptionally talented toddlers created them?
Isn’t there a marked lack of perspective in these images? Albeit they are all exquisitely beautiful… I am just intrigued that there aren’t many art works from that age which are less two dimensional.
Here are a few examples of various stylized depictions of scenes from around the ancient world… some like the Madhubani art is still in practice.
Sometimes, I just get this weird feeling that ancient people saw only in 2D! 😀
© Surya Murali