Friday, September 2, 2011

Traditional Masks

"Traditional Mask" (acrylic & ink on acrylic sheet) 36" x 48 (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
I'm shifting direction. I've become interested in masks, but more specifically, in the concept of anonymous artists creating timeless forms and images within a tradition.

After watching a video on African masks, and looking though various books on art, I can see that  most of the great art work around the world, the stuff your see in art and art history books, has been done by ANONYMOUS artists working within a tradition of passing on art and images to society and to successive generations. The tradition is to make exact copies of cultural images and icons; the individual subordinates his own ego and identity to the group or the tribe. Each artist distinguishes himself with the skill that he brings to the project. This is what I've done here: I created an image, and repeated it over and over again, redrawing it in the exact same way. The repetition is what creates the tradition.

Of course, you can see that there is a lot of variation within these "masks": that's where stylistic evolution happens. The top center was the first "mask" I'd created; the bottom right image is the last one I created in this painting.  As you can see, there's a lot of morphing and change that happens even when working within the strictures of a predefined precise image.

Unfortunately, I can't be a purist here, because I can't resist the urge to sign my work! But I'll be working with this "mask" idea for a while...

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