Behold the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas Jan12

Behold the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas...

If I were fortunate enough to be able to travel to China, I would make the Mogao Caves near the city of Dunhuang a primary stop as the artifacts housed within these sandstone cliffs rival that of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City or the famous Terracotta Warriors. Impressive yet understated on the outside, these caverns carved within the cliffs near the edge of the Gobi Desert hide an unrivaled collection of Buddhist art, including over 2,400 sculptures and miles of murals spanning a period of 1,000 years, from the North Wei to the Yuan Dynasty. Once inside these modest-looking caves, you’ll discover a temple-like architecture filled with amazing statuary and wall murals that make this more than a cave with prehistoric wall paintings. According to legend, these caves were created in 366 C.E, when a traveling monk named Lè Zūn was inspired to build the first cave after experiencing a vision of a thousand Buddhas bathed in golden light. Later, he was joined by another monk, and the cave numbers grew. The caves were first used as a place for meditation, to serve the monasteries in the area. Since Dunhuang was a major trade route that linked China to the Mediterranean, travelers often came through the area, commissioning caves (all created by the monks) as offerings for safety and prosperity. The caves then lay dormant for nearly 600 years, when the Mongols invaded the area making travel to the area unsafe. Much later in 1900, interest was revived when Wang Yuanlu, a Taoist priest and self-appointed guardian of the caves, decided to do some restoration and discovered thousands of Buddhist scrolls in one of the caves. Discovery of these manuscripts brought much attention from Europe and archeological world. If the statuary and murals contained...

Manga: The Virtues and Difficulties of Minimalism Jul28

Manga: The Virtues and Difficulties of Minimalism...

Sitting in my college illustration class one evening I remember vividly the teacher’s comments when he found a pair of students dabbling in manga-style characters.  How he saw “man-ga” everywhere and he was sick of it; that it wasn’t real art. Yet Western comic book art was perfectly acceptable and we even had a class that was centered around how to caricature. As someone who has an appreciation for Eastern art forms I was taken aback. Amateurs might flood the market with manga of varying quality but we see people flood the market with varying attempts at modern art imitations of someone like Warhol or Jackson Pollack just as much. So firstly, in defense of manga, we should probably understand why people might like it so much. Manga as a form of art came out of a long tradition in Japan. For many centuries Japan had been highly influenced by the art of China, which traditionally had a focus on details and perfection. In the 1600s there was a movement away from the Chinese form which started to discard the details of the Chinese influenced schools and sought a more evocative form of expression of washes and minimalism that was inspired by Buddhism. By the 1700s minimalism had begun to flourish in Japan’s art schools. This new school of art was called nanga (nope, that’s no typo). For those of you curious to know more I would recommend the book Japanese Art by Joan Stanley-Baker, part of Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series. Artists used this style to portray the first real caricatures of humans and also made animalistic representations of humans. This history was influential to the modern artist Stan Sakai’s making the iconic comic book figure of Usagi Yojimbo, for example....