Landscape of the Soul by Nathalie Trouvero
Eighth – century painter Wu Daozi was asked by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong to paint a landscape to decorate a palace wall. The master hid behind a screen of his work. Only the Emperor could see it. The Emperor admired the wonderful scene. He found forests, high mountains, waterfalls, floating clouds in the huge sky, flying men on hilly paths and birds. Then the painter respectfully asked the king to look at the foot of the mountain in a cave. He said a spirit lived there. The painter was knocking his hands. The cave entrance opened. The painter remarked that the cave was very splendid from inside. He offered to show the way to His Majesty.
The painter entered the cave, but behind him, the entrance was closed. The Emperor was amazed. The painting had disappeared from the wall before he could move or speak a word. There was no sign left of the brush of Wu Daozi. Never again has the artist been seen. It’s been his last painting. Take another famous story about a painter from China. He wasn’t going to draw a dragon’s eye he had painted. He feared the painting would fly out. Such stories played a major role in traditional education in China. Confucius and Zhuangzi’s books are filled with them. They helped the master in the right direction to guide his disciple.
These stories reveal the spirit in which art was taken into consideration. Then the writer compares these stories to an old Flanders story from his own country. He finds this story as Western painting’s most representative. A skilled blacksmith named Quinten Metsys fell in love with the daughter of a painter in Antwerp in the 15th century. In such a profession, the girl’s father would not accept a son – in – law. One day, Quinten went secretly to the studio of the painter. He painted a fly on the latest painting by the master. It’s been painted with sensitive realism. The painter was taking it for a real one. He was trying to hit it off. Then the matter was realized. As an apprentice, he took Quinten. Then Quinten got his beloved married.
He became one of his age’s most famous painters. Chinese and Flanders stories above illustrate what each art form is trying to achieve. The goal is a perfect illusionist likeness in Europe. In Asia, the essence of inner life and spirit is stressed. The Emperor of China gets painted a painting. He appreciates his external appearance.
The artist showcases him with the true meaning of his work. The emperor may rule over the region he conquered, but the way is known only to the artist. The painting is gone but his goal has been reached by the artist. He is now beyond the appearance of any material. An actual view is reproduced by Western painting. The European painter wants the beholders to look from a specific angle at a particular landscape, i.e. just as he saw it. The Chinese painter does not select a single viewpoint. His landscape is not a ‘ real’ one. One can enter it from any point and travel in it in a leisurely movement. This is truer in the case of horizontal scroll. Here one slowly opens one section of the painting, then rolls it up and moves on to the other. This adds a real dimension of time.
It also requires the viewer’s active involvement— participation that is both physical and mental. The European painter wants to borrow his eyes from the viewer. The Chinese painter wants him to do that. He wants the spectator to come into his mind. The landscape is a spiritual and conceptual space, an inner space. This concept is expressed as ‘shanshui’ meaning ‘ mountain – water ‘ literally. They represent the word ‘Landscape’ when used together. The mountain, while the water is ‘yin’, ‘ is ‘ yang. ‘ Yin and yang interaction is a basic notion of Daoism.
There’s also a third essential element — the middle void, where they interact. This can be compared with pranayama’s yogic practice of breathing in, retaining, breathing out. Breath suspension is the void in which meditation takes place. The middle void is vital. Without it, nothing can happen. Therefore, the unpainted white space in the Chinese landscape is very important. Man finds a fundamental role in this space—between Heaven and Earth. He becomes the medium of communication between both poles of the universe. His presence is essential. He is the eye of the landscape.
The concept of ‘ art brut ‘ or ‘ raw art ‘ was first created by French painter Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s. Then the visionary’s untrained art was of minority interest. The ‘ outsider art ‘ has gradually become the area of interest in international modern art that is growing face test. This particular type of work is the creation of those who have no right ‘ to be artists because they have not received any formal training, yet they show artistic insight and talent. Nek Chand’s 80-year – old work is the largest contribution to ‘ outsider art ‘ by India. He made a stone – sculpted garden and recycled material. It is now known to the world as the Chandigarh Rock Garden.
Raw Vision, a UK – based magazine pioneer in an outsider art publication, recently released the 50th scene (spring 2005) features Nek Chand and his Rock Garden sculpture ‘ Women by the Waterfall ‘ on the cover of his anniversary issue. His art has been recognized as an exceptional testimony to the difference that a single man can make in living his dream. The Swiss UNESCO Commission will honour him through an interactive five-month show of his work. Nek Chand says the greatest reward for him is to walk through the garden and watch people enjoy his creation.
The recently released 50th scene (spring 2005) of Raw Vision, a UK-based magazine pioneer in an outsider art publication, features Nek Chand, and his Rock Garden sculpture ‘Women by the waterfall’ on its anniversary issue’s cover. His art has been recognised as an outstanding testimony of the difference a single man can make when he lives his dream. The Swiss Commission for UNESCO will be honouring him by way of a five-month interactive show of his works. Nek Chand says that walking through the garden and watching people enjoy his creation is the biggest reward for him.
UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
1. (i) Contrast the Chinese view of art with the European view with examples.
Ans. The Chinese paintings are based on an imaginative, inner or spiritual approach whereas the European paintings reproduce an actual view, of an external or real object. The paintings of Wu Daozi and master painters of Europe illustrate the difference.
(ii) Explain the concept of ‘shanshui’.
Ans. ‘Shanshui’ represents two complementary poles of the universe: ‘yang’ and ‘yin’. Literally ‘Sansui means ‘mountain water. Mountain is ‘yang’—the vertical stable, warm and dry element. Water is ‘yin’ horizon resting on the earth, fluid and cool. The interaction of yin i.e. the receptive female aspect of universal energy and ‘yang’—the active and masculine energy creates the images.
2. (i) What do you understand by the terms ‘outsider art’ & ‘art brut’ or ‘raw art’?
Ans. ‘Outsider art’ refers to the art of those who have no right to be artists as they have received no formal training yet show talent and artistic insight. ‘Art Brut’ or ‘raw art’ are the works of art in their raw state as regards cultural and artistic influences.
(ii) Who was the ‘untutored genius who created a paradise’ and what is the nature of his contribution to art?
Ans. The ‘untutored genius who created a paradise’ is Sh. Nek Chand who created Rock Garden at Chandigarh. He has sculpted a garden with stone and recycled material. His art is recognised as India’s biggest contribution to ‘outsider art’.
B. TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT
(Answer in 100-125 words)
Discuss the following statements in groups of four:[For Group discussions at the class level. One specimen each of discussions regarding spiritual experiences is given below.]
1. ‘‘The Emperor may rule over the territory he has conquered, but only the artist knows the way within.’’
Ans. The Emperor is a symbol of authority and power. His will prevails in the land under his rule. His word is a law for the people spread over the territory he rules. The emperor may get the services of talented persons and master artists. The acquisition of power, pelf and physical objects do not make him superior to the artists. The artists have spiritual insight into the nature of things. He understands the workings of the mysterious ways of the universe. His spiritual enlightenment and vision can help the emperor to attain the goal of life i.e., the liberation of the soul from the framework of the body. It is only the artist who knows the way within the territory the emperor has conquered. The way here means both the path and the method. His approach is purely spiritual which persons, burdened with materialistic approach’ fail to acquire and appreciate
2. ‘‘The landscape is an inner one, a spiritual and conceptual space.’’
Ans. A classical Chinese landscape is not meant to reproduce an actual view as would a Western figurative painting. The European painter aims to create illusionary likeness whereas the Asian artists try to capture the essence of inner life and spirit. For the Chinese painter, the landscape is not a ‘real’ one. He does not choose a single viewpoint. Hence his landscape can be viewed from different angles. One can enter it from any point and then travel in it. The Chinese artist creates a path for our eyes to travel up and down and then back again, in a leisurely movement. These paintings require the active participation of the viewer. This participation is physical as well as mental. We must try not only to see the painting but enter the mind of the painter as well. It is only by understanding the ideas that motivate the painter, that we can understand the true import or the essence. It is because his landscape is an inner one, a spiritual and conceptual space.
THINKING ABOUT LANGUAGE
(Answer in 30 words)
1. Find out the correlates of Yin and Yang in other cultures.
Ans. The Indian culture lays stress on Nature and God. Nature is the ‘Yin’ or female part whereas God, the creator, is the male or active part. This concept is also known as ‘Maya’ and ‘Brahma’. The combination of the two creates the world and all its objects as well as inhabitants.
2. What is the language spoken in Flanders?
Ans. The language spoken in Flanders is French.
D. WORKING WITH WORDS
I. The following common words are used in more than one sense: panel studio brush essence material Examine the following sets of sentences to find out what the words mean in different contexts:
1. (i) The masks from Bawa village in Mali, look like long panels of decorated wood.
(ii) Judge H. Hobart Grooms told the jury panel he had heard the reports.
(iii) The panel is laying the groundwork for an international treaty.
(iv) The glass panels of the window were broken.
(v) Through the many round tables, workshops or panel discussions, a consensus was reached.
(vi) The sink in the hinged panel above the bunk drains into the head.
(i) square or rectangular pieces of wood.
(ii) The members of the jury who offer their opinion to the judge.
(iii) a group of specialists who give their advice or opinion.
(iv) square or rectangular pieces of glass fitted in the window.
(v) discussions among a group of people. (vi) a flat board attached with a hinge.
2. (i) Their repetitive structure must have taught the people around the great composer the essence of music.
(ii) Part of the answer is in the proposition, but the essence is in the meaning.
(iii) The implications of these schools of thoughts are of practical essence for the teacher.
(iv) They had added vanilla essence to the pudding.
(i) the most important quality or feature of something that makes it what it is.
(ii) the main part.
(iii) practical importance
(iv) the liquid is taken from vanilla that contains its smell and taste in a very strong form.
II. Now collect 5 sentences each for the rest of the words to show the different senses in which each of them is used.
(i) Quinten sneaked into the painter’s studio and painted a fly on his latest panel.
(ii) Noida has a television studio that has the latest amenities and equipment.
(iii) Many famous films were shot at Mehboob studio Mumbai.
(iv) She works for a major Bollywood studio.
(v) Sapna runs a dance studio.
(vi) Even a studio format in this area is quite costly.
(i) What material is this shirt made of?
(ii) Oil is the raw material for plastic.
(iii) I am collecting material for my new project.
(iv) Our Principal insists on the extensive use of teaching materials.
(v) The band played all new material at the ball last night.
(i) Not a trace of Wu Daozi’s brush was left there.
(ii) Give your teeth a good brush.
(iii) She blushed at the brush of his lips on her cheek.
(iv) Mohit had a nasty brush with his boss this morning.
(v) He brushed aside my fears.
III. Notice these expressions in the text. Guess the meaning from the context:
anecdote illusionistic likeness delicate realism conceptual space figurative painting
Anecdote: a short interesting or amusing story
Delicate realism: careful treatment producing a life-like object
Figurative painting: painting showing people, animals and objects as they really look.
Illusionistic likeness: a false idea about likeness.
Conceptual space: space-based on ideas.
E. NOTICING FORM
1. A classical Chinese landscape is not meant to reproduce an actual view, as would a Western figurative painting.
2. Whereas the European painter wants you to borrow his eyes and look at a particular landscape exactly as he saw it, from a specific angle, the Chinese painter does not choose a single viewpoint. The above two examples are ways in which contrast may be expressed. Combine the following sets of ideas to show the contrast between them.
1. (i) European art tries to achieve a perfect, illusionistic likeness.
(ii) Asian art tries to capture the essence of inner life and spirit.
2. (i) The Emperor commissions a painting and appreciates its outer appearance.
(ii) The artist reveals to him the true meaning of his work.
3. (i) The Emperor may rule over the territory he conquered.
(ii) The artist knows the way within.
Ans. (i) Whereas European art tries to achieve a perfect, illusionistic likeness, Asian art tries to capture the essence of inner life and spirit.
(ii) The Emperor may commission a painting and appreciate its outer appearance while/ whereas the artist reveals to him the true meaning of his work.
(iii) While/Whereas the Emperor may rule over the territory he conquered, the artist knows the way within.
F. THINGS TO DO
1. Find out about as many Indian schools of painting as you can. Write a short note on the distinctive features of each school.
2. Find out about other experiments in recycling that help in environmental conservation.
Ans. Try yourself.
Additional / Extra Questions Solved
SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS (Word limit: 40 words)
1. Which parts of the landscape, painted by Wu Daozi, did the Emperor admire and how long?
Ans. The Emperor watched the painting for a long while. He admired the wonderful scene painted by Wu Daozi. He discovered forests, high mountains, waterfalls, clouds floating in the vast sky, men on hilly paths and birds in flight.
2. What did the painter (Wu Daozi) tell the Emperor about the cave?
Ans. The painter told the Emperor that a spirit lived in the cave which was at the foot of the mountain. As he clapped his hands, the entrance to the cave opened. He told the Emperor that the inside of the cave was splendid and offered to show His Majesty the way.
3. What happened to the painter as he entered the cave?
Ans. As the painter entered the cave, the entrance to the cave closed behind him. The Emperor was surprised. Before he could move or speak a word, the painting had disappeared from the wall. There was not even a brush mark left there. The artist (Wu Daozi) was never seen again in the world.
4. Why, do you think, China’s classical education included stories having deep spiritual significance?
Ans. Stories having deep spiritual significance helped the master to guide his disciple in the right direction. The books of great men like Confucious and Zhuangzi are full of them. These stories narrate tales and reveal the spirit in which art was considered at that time.
5. Why did the painter not draw the eye of the dragon he had painted? How far do you agree with him?
Ans. The painter feared that if he drew the eye of the dragon he had painted, the picture would be complete and the dragon might come alive. Then it might fly out of the painting. Since the vision of the artist is spiritual, we agree with him.
6. Why does Nathalie Trouveroy mention Quinten’s trick?
Ans. The writer mentions Quinten’s trick to highlight the aim of art in Europe. The European painters try to achieve a perfect, illusionistic likeness. Quinten had painted a fly with such delicate realism that even the master took it for a real one.
7. How does the Chinese story present the powers and limitations of the Emperor and the painter?
Ans. The Emperor may commission a painting and appreciate its outer appearance, but only the artist reveals to him the true meaning of his work. Secondly, the Emperor may rule
over the region, he has conquered, but only the artist knows the way within.
8. ‘‘Let me show the way’’, said Wu Daozi. Explain how the author interprets the word ‘way’.
Ans. The word ‘way’ according to the author has two meanings, (i) path or the method, and (ii) the mysterious works of the universe. The painter tells the king the path to the cave or the method to reach the cave. By entering the cave and disappearing from the world, he explains the mysterious works of the universe.
9. Give three points of contrast between a classical Chinese landscape and a Western One.
Ans. A Western landscape reproduces an actual view whereas a classical Chinese landscape does not. The European painter wants the viewer to look at a particular landscape exactly as he saw it, from a specific angle, the Chinese painter does not choose a single viewpoint. The Chinese landscape is not a real one like the western one, but an inner one, a spiritual and conceptual space.
10. What do you learn about the Daoist view of the universe from this chapter?
Ans. Daoism recognises two contrasting but complementary elements in the universe namely ‘Yang’ and ‘Yin’. ‘Yang’ is active, masculine, stable, warm and dry whereas ‘yin’ is receptive, feminine, fluid, moist and cool. The interaction of ‘Yang’ and ‘Yin’ is a fundamental notion of Daoism.
11. Which element is often overlooked? How is it essential?
Ans. The Middle void is the third element that is often overlooked. This is essential because the interaction between ‘Yang’ and ‘Yin’ takes place there. Nothing can happen without the middle void. It is as important as the suspension of breath in ‘pranayama’. Meditation occurs only in the void when we retain breath.
12. How does Nathalie Trouveroy define the role of Man?
Ans. The writer assigns a fundamental role to Man. In the space between Heaven and Earth, he becomes the medium of communication between poles of the Universe. His presence is essential as he is ‘‘the eye of the landscape’’. He occupies an important position in the universe. He is not lost or oppressed by the lofty peaks.
13. How would you classify ‘art’ on the basis of your reading the chapter ‘Landscape of the Soul’?
Ans. We may classify art, i.e. paintings and sculpture broadly as ‘mainstream’ offerings and ‘outsider art’. Whereas the former are products of trained artists, the latter are the works of those who have received no formal training, yet show talent and artistic insight. It is the art of the untrained visionary.
14. ‘How has the worth of Nek Chand’s work been recognised abroad?
Ans. Nek Chand’s work is now recognised as India’s biggest contribution to ‘outsider art’. revision a UK-based magazine that is a pioneer in outsider art publication has Nek Chand and his Rock Garden sculpture ‘Women by the waterfall’ on the cover of its 50th issue. UNESCO is organising a five-month interactive show of his works.
15. How has Nek Chand followed the notions of ‘art brut’ or ‘raw art’ in his works?
Ans. The ‘art brut’ or ‘raw art’ are the works of art in their raw state as regards cultural and artistic influences. Anything and everything from tin to sink to a broken down car could be material for a work of art. Nek Chand has sculpted a garden with stone and recycled material.
B. LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS (Answer in 100-125 words)
1. How does the Chinese view of art differ from The European view? Illustrate your answer with examples.
Ans. Western figurative painting is meant to reproduce an actual view of the scene whereas a classical Chinese landscape is based on an imaginative, inner or spiritual approach. Chinese art aims at achieving the essence of inner life and spirit while the European form of art is trying to achieve a perfect illusionistic likeness. The European painter wants the viewer to borrow his eyes and look at a particular landscape exactly as he saw it, from a specific angle. On the other hand, the Chinese painter does not choose a single viewpoint. His landscape is not a real one. He does not want the viewer to borrow his eyes. He wants the beholder to enter his mind. One can enter a Chinese landscape from any point and move across leisurely and come back. The Chinese view of art also requires the active participation of the viewer. This participation is both physical and mental. The stories about the paintings of Wu Daozi and an old story from Flanders amply illustrate the difference.
2. Explain the concept of Shanshui and the fundamental notions of Daoism.
Ans. ‘Shanshui’ is a Chinese word. It literally means ‘mountain water. The two elements used together represent the word ‘landscape’. Mountain and water are two elements of an image. They also reflect the Daoist view of the universe. The mountain is ‘Yang’ whereas water is ‘Yin’. The mountain rises vertically towards Heaven. Mountain is stable, warm and dry in the sun. Water is horizontal and rests on the Earth. Water is fluid, moist and cool. ‘Yin’ is the receptive and feminine aspect of universal energy. ‘Yang’ is its complementary part. ‘Yang’ is active and masculine. The interaction of ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ is a fundamental notion of Daoism. There is an essential third element also. It is the Middle Void where the interaction takes place. This Middle Void is essential. Nothing can happen without it. The concept of the Middle Void can be made clear by comparison to the yogic practice of pranayama. We breathe in, retain breath and breathe out. The suspension of breath is the Void where meditation occurs. Hence the white, unpainted space has special importance in the Chinese landscape
3. Man is ‘‘the eye of the landscape’’ says Francois Cheng. Discuss this concept on the basis of reading ‘Landscape of the soul’.
Ans. The role of man in this universe can be explained with the help of the Daoist view of the universe. Daoism recognises two contrasting but complementary elements in the universe. These are called ‘Yang’ and ‘Yin’. ‘Yang’ is active, masculine, stable, warm and dry whereas ‘yin’ is receptive, feminine, moist and cool. The interaction of ‘Yang’ and ‘Yin’ occurs in the Middle Void. Hence this Middle Void is essential as nothing can happen without it. The importance of man and his fundamental role in the universe can be explained in the light of Daoism. Man exists in the space between Heaven and Earth. He is the medium of communication between both poles of the universe, even if it is only suggested. He occupies an important position in the universe. He is not lost or oppressed by the lofty peaks. Man’s presence is essential as he is the most important feature or the ‘eye’ of the landscape. We cannot see without the eye. Similarly, the universe is incomplete without a man.
4. What do you understand by ‘outsider art’? Write a note on worldwide recognition of Nek Chand’s contribution to outsider art.
Ans. ‘Outsider art’ refers to the art of those who have no right to be artists as they have received no formal training, yet show talent and artistic insight. Sh. Nek Chand has won worldwide recognition for his unique contribution to outsider art. Using stone and recycled material he has created many sculptures at Rock Garden, Chandigarh. Nek Chand’s work is now recognised as India’s biggest contribution to outsider art. ‘Raw Vision’ a U.K. based magazine, a pioneer in outsider art publication has featured Nek Chand and his Rock Garden sculpture ‘Women by the Waterfall’ on the title cover of its 50th issue (Spring 2005). His art has been acclaimed as ‘‘an outstanding testimony of the difference a single man can make when he lives his dream’’. The Swiss Commissioner for UNESCO has honoured him by organising a five-month interactive show called. ‘Realm of Nek Chand’. In short, Nek Chand has taken outsider art to dizzying heights and richly deserves worldwide acclaim.
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