Choose an artwork or image from a non-western culture to discuss critically. You can choose a culture we discuss in the class (see the Syllabus, PowerPoints, supplementary reading or text for possible examples) or an example we do not discuss that represents a non-western culture. The class guidelines span from prehistoric through contemporary examples, so any time period is suitable for your paper. Try to focus on one image and no more than two in order to go into more depth. I encourage you to visit a museum if you are able to experience this work in person, but this is not mandatory.
You can begin with a formal analysis of the artwork, but I encourage you to take a point of view and develop a thesis (or argument). Try to read the object in a more critical way. For example, what does a particular sculpture or painting say about the values, power, ideals and artistic concerns about the society in which it was created? I suggest that you begin by analyzing the formal elements of this artwork (medium, style, composition, …). Then consider the following concerns to support your point of view about the artwork. You can discuss these attributes in a different order, but I suggest addressing the more general ideas first before going into greater depth about the meaning and significance of the artwork.
Visual Form (line, pattern, texture, shape and volume, perspective, balance, proportion and scale, emphasis, unity and variety…)
Media and Technique (What type of art is it? For example, is it sculpture, painting, or architecture? Do you know anything about the technique with which this work was created? What is the size/dimensions of the art?)
Function (Does this artwork have a functional purpose? Or does it have a more symbolic function, such as communicating a narrative; if so, you may choose to address this more thoroughly in considering its content and meaning later in your paper.)
Artistic Movement and Style (Is this artwork an example of Mughal architecture,…?)
Content and Symbolism (What is the subject of this work? Can we understand it further through the use of symbols?)
Context -What are the social, political, economic and religious factors influencing this work? This may offer insight into why a work was created and takes the visual form that it has. This also prompts us to consider whether or not the work was created in service of the artist or state that may have been at odds with each other. Was this created when artists were responding to upheaval and uncertainty, or establishing the identity of a society or an artistic movement through visual form? How does the style and form of the work respond to the national climate or changing standards in art?
Aesthetics – Consider how an artwork reflects the philosophical beliefs of a culture and how we see a society’s standards and values through its visual ideals.
Theoretical Approaches – Can you understand this artwork better by taking a theoretical approach?