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Young World

For our own sake


Beginning an occasional column on art appreciation. What's it all about?

The Sistine chapel.

The word "art" is familiar and we use it in many contexts, so much so that its true meaning is a little fuzzy and unclear.

The Webster dictionary gives the definition of art as "the creation of works that are in form, content and execution, aesthetically pleasing and meaningful". Art can include painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama and many more creative activities. Here we talk about art with reference to paintings and sculptures. There are many types of paintings like oil painting, watercolours, fresco, acrylic painting and many more.

Fresco means "fresh" in Italian. It is a kind of wall painting. The artist applies fresh plaster on a wall and paints directly on the plaster, while it is still wet. As the plaster dries, the painting becomes a part of the wall. Ancient Romans commonly used this technique.

Wall painting, however existed even during the Paleolithic or pre-historic period. Early men used to draw pictures of animals on cave walls. Such cave paintings, were found in France and Spain. These paintings were 15,000 to 32,000 years old. They also carved figures of horses and fat women out of limestone and ivory.

To appreciate art, it is important to understand it. Human beings have an amazing ability to create things, even with limited sources available to them. The knowledge of art gives you an insight of this ability.

Often one wonders why a particular piece of art was created. There were many reasons, like the Egyptians believed in life after death and they wanted their art to be an extension of life. In Europe during the Middle Ages, the church was very powerful. They used art to teach the masses about their faith.

In the early 20th century, artists like Piet Mondrain used art to spread the feeling of peace and harmony among people. Around the same time, another group of artists expressed their anger and sorrow through the same medium. They were called the Expressionists.

Hindu deities were the main theme of Tanjore paintings. They were meant for worship and found a place in the prayer rooms of South Indian homes.

Different needs create different styles. Sometimes the same style is copied again, many centuries later. The Renaissance artists (around 14th to 16th century) tried to copy and learn from the works of ancient Greeks and the Romans.

Knowledge of art can mean more, than just having the ability to draw, paint or create something. It makes us aware and appreciative of our surroundings and ourselves and gives us an inspiration to achieve more in our lives.

This new column would be devoted to understanding art, different kinds of paintings, sculptures, artists and the arts of different countries and civilizations. Various techniques and materials used in creating art and the reasons for creating them will be included.

The author lives in Singapore. Her book The Story of Painting for Young Readers is being released this month.

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