Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the story “Landscape of the Soul” by Nathalie Trouveroy of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 11 (first year) English (Hornbill) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: The author makes an interesting comparison between Western and Chinese landscape painting styles, arguing that Western artists are more faithful to reality in their depictions of the natural world. The painters aim for an “illusionistic likeness” in their figurative works. However, the essence of the inner life and spirit is of utmost importance to the Oriental painter. This is not a landscape of external images, but rather a landscape of the internal to them.
Once upon a time, a Chinese Emperor commissioned a landscape painting to adorn the walls of his palace. The magnificent painting took the Emperor’s breath away with its depiction of forests, mountains, waterfalls, clouds, and the vastness of the sky. The painter pointed out a cave to the Emperor and explained that it was the home of a spirit. An opening appeared in the cave as the artist clapped his hands. An artist stepped in to lead the Emperor because he offered to do so. As the door closed behind him, the painting vanished from the wall before the Emperor could react. There would be no way to identify the creator again.
This is typical of the kinds of stories taught in classical Chinese education. They show the artist’s inner life and the soul of the work. Some artists claim that if they paint a dragon’s eye, the creature will leap right out of the canvas.
European art, in contrast, focuses on the world as it actually is. The story of a blacksmith named Quinten from Antwerp, Belgium, provides a vivid illustration of this phenomenon. He developed feelings for the painter’s daughter, but her father was opposed to the match because he disapproved of Quinten’s work. Quinten snuck into the artist’s studio one day and added a fly to the finished work on the wall. When the artist saw it, he or she initially thought it was real and swatted at it. Due to his admiration for Quinten, he hired him on as an apprentice. Soon after, Quinten rose to prominence as a major artist of his time.
These two narratives illustrate the fundamental tenets of the two art forms. In Europe, artists aim for a perfect “illusionistic likeness,” but in Asia, they seek the “essence of inner life and spirit.” While the European painter chooses the viewpoint for the viewer, the Asian painter invites the viewer to enter the work and examine it from any perspective they like. Even in Chinese landscape scroll paintings, time and space are incorporated.
Thus, the concept of shanshui, which translates to “mountain water,” is expanded upon in traditional Chinese artwork. Water is yin and the mountain is yang because they both rest on the ground rather than rising into the air. A third, often-ignored factor is also present. It’s referred to as the “Middle Void.” Instead of being diametrically opposed, Yang and Yin are complementary. The Middle Void, represented in the Chinese landscape by the white areas that aren’t painted, is where they interact. It’s a lot like pranayama, a yogic breathing exercise where you hold your breath for a set period of time. To put it another way, man is a vital link in the chain that connects the celestial realm with our own. Since he serves as “the eye of the landscape,” his presence is crucial.
Understanding the text
1. (i) Contrast the Chinese view of art with the European view, with examples.
Answer: Chinese and Asian paintings are distinct from their European analogues in several fundamental respects. While the Europeans strive for a perfect “illusionistic likeness” or the actual image, the Chinese focus on the essence of inner life and spirit in their paintings.
An ancient Chinese emperor, for instance, commissioned a landscape painting for the interior of his palace. The painting of trees, mountains, a waterfall, clouds, and the sky had impressed him. Both men were walking on hilly paths and birds in the air were visible. The artist pointed out to the Emperor a cave in the picture, telling him that it was home to a spirit. The door to the cave opened at the sound of his clap, revealing the cave’s breathtaking interior. As soon as the painter entered the cave, the entrance shut behind him. As the Emperor watched in disbelief, both the painting and the artist disappeared. He disappeared from the face of the earth forever. In another case, the artist was afraid to draw the dragon’s eye for fear the creature would take flight. It is clear from these that the Chinese viewed art with great reverence.
The Europeans’ goal in expressing themselves was different. Their brushwork captured the world in all its realistic detail. A blacksmith named Quinten from Antwerp, for instance had his heart set on marrying the daughter of a painter in the 15th century. But the father refused to acknowledge it because he disapproved of Quinten’s work. So, Quinten snuck into the artist’s studio one day and painted a fly on the freshly-finished canvas. The artist was fooled into swatting it away because it looked so real. He was so taken with Quinten’s talent that he made him his apprentice and eventually married off his daughter to the young man.
The European artist intended for us to see the scene in the painting from a specific perspective. However, the Chinese painter does not select a single viewing perspective, instead necessitating the active involvement of the viewer on multiple levels.
(ii) Explain the concept of “shanshui.”
Answer: The Chinese term for the “conceptual space” reflected in the Chinese landscape is “shanshui.” “, which translates to “mountain-water.” The combination of these two terms is the equivalent of the “landscape’. The mountain and the sea are not polar opposites, but rather complement each other. According to Daoist philosophy, a mountain represents Yang because it extends upward toward the heavens and basks in the sun’s warmth and drying effects. As a Yin element, water is characterised by its fluidity, moistness, and coolness. It lies flat on the ground and is supported by the planet. In Daoism, Yang is the masculine principle, while Yin is the feminine principle. The space between Yang and Yin is called the Middle Void, and it’s crucial to the whole system. Shanshui is the Chinese concept of balancing these three factors.
2. (i) What do you understand by the terms “outsider art” and “art brut” or “raw art”?
Answer: “Outsider art” refers to the creations of those who lack formal art education and, by extension, “do not have the right to be artists.” This subgenre of art has seen a remarkable increase in popularity in the modern world all over the globe. Despite their lack of formal training, these artists display remarkable skill and insight. Their paintings are a welcome sight as an exciting alternative to the status quo. “Art brut” or “raw art” refers to creative works that have not yet been filtered through the lens of established artistic or cultural norms. In this style, anything can be used as a canvas, from a tin can to a kitchen sink, to an old car, to recycled materials. The Rock Garden in Chandigarh, designed by the self-taught genius Nek Chand, is an outstanding example of unrefined artistic expression.
(ii) Who was the “untutored genius who created a paradise” and what is the nature of his contribution to art?
Answer: The raw aesthetics of Nek Chand, an Indian from Chandigarh, reached new heights of perfection. Years ago, he cut down a small section of the jungle in order to create a garden for himself out of stone and other reclaimed materials. The Rock Garden that Nek Chand created became famous, and he is now considered India’s preeminent outsider artist. Pieces of cups, bangles, tins, and even abandoned cars found their way into his garden. He is an inspiring example of how one man can change the world when he follows his passion. For his efforts, he has been recognised all over the world with awards and accolades.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. What is a “landscape”?
Answer: A landscape painting depicts rural, bucolic settings. It’s a wide swath of landscape visible in a single vista.
2. Who was Wu Daozi?
Answer: Artist and poet Wu Daozi lived in eighth-century China. His final work was a landscape commissioned by Xuanzong, the Emperor of Tang.
3. After Wu Daozi clapped his hands, what happened?
Answer: When he clapped his hands, the door to the cave beneath the mountain in his painting opened to reveal the breathtaking interior. As soon as he entered, the door shut. Both the artist and his or her work have vanished without a trace.
15. What does the author have to say about Western art? What connection does she draw to the tale from Flanders?
Answer: In fifteenth-century Antwerp, there was a blacksmith by the name of Quinten Metsys. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t marry the painter’s daughter because her father was against their union. Sneaking into the artist’s studio, he painted a fly on the artist’s drawing board so realistically that the artist thought it was real and tried to swat it away. As a result of this, the artist took Quinten under his wing as an apprentice and eventually married off his daughter to him. This young painter eventually became one of the most celebrated in his field.
The author believes Quinten’s painting best exemplifies Western art. To them, success means making something that looks and feels very close to the real thing—an illusionistic likeness. The European scenery is an accurate depiction of a real-world setting.
16. Elaborate on the meaning of shanshui as it relates to Chinese artwork. What is man’s part in that?
Answer: Shanshui, literally “mountain water,” is the Chinese expression for the “conceptual space” depicted in the Chinese landscape. The word “landscape” is a combination of these two words. The mountainous terrain and the nearby body of water make a beautiful pair. To Daoists, a mountain represents Yang because of its upward trajectory toward the heavens and its ability to soak up the sun’s warmth and dryness. Yin characteristics include water’s fluidity, moisture, and coolness. It lies flat on the ground and is supported by the planet. The Yin side is more feminine, while Yang represents the masculine. The Middle Void, the area of interaction between Yang and Yin, is also crucial. It’s the blank, white spots in the Chinese countryside. The Chinese term for this idea of three elements is shanshui. The role of man as a link between the spiritual and material realms is crucial. The French writer Francois Cheng referred to him as “the eye of the landscape” to describe his role in the natural world.
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