Traditional art, also called tribal, savage, primitive art, arts premiers, or in earlier times, when it came to the works of some African tribes, Negro art, is ART.
This view is the foundation of the Asian Art:Future collection shown here. From an area not so much discussed in international publications, and if so, more in respect of the ethnographical, spiritual background and use: the traditional art from the Philippine Cordilleras, inhabited by Ifugao, Bontoc, Kankanay (Kankanaey) and other tribes of the Igorot peoples.
AA:F admires the simplicity, the power, the pure representations, the command of “cubic existence in real space” (to borrow an observation of D.H. Kahnweiler on “Negro sculpture”), the plastic symbolism and reality, the directness, the powerful expression of the Cordillera traditional sculptures.
Representation which at the same time shows creativity in that the carvers observed “no canon or ancient proportionality” (Josef Capek). Cordillera art is, for all we know (and again using an observation made in respect of African traditional art) the art of a “primitive man” who “has rather an idea of weakness of reason and logic”. The primitive man “believes rather in other ways of thinking. That is why he has so much esteem and so much admiration for the states of mind which are called by us delirium and madness” (Jean Dubuffet, known for, i.a. his leadership in “raw art”, in: Anticultural Positions, Lecture at the Arts Club of Chicago, December 20, 1951, Arts Magazine 53, reprinted in Jack Flam/Miriam Deutch, Primitivism and Twentieth Century Art, University of California Press, 2003, pp. 292 et seq.).
Or, a bit more direct: “Christian Primitives and negro savages proceeded only by faith and instinct” (whereas “the modern artist proceeds by instinct guided by reason”, all Constantin Brancusi, c. 1923, ibid. p. 420). For all we know, this is a more or less accurate description by the scholars of the societies which have created the objects which forms the subject matter of AA:Fs Cordillera art project.
Traditional Cordillera art is art from which we can learn, very much in the same way as European and American artists of the 20th and 21st century, the modern art, cubism, minimalism, surrealism, schools of abstract art and more have learned from the then discussed traditional art, mainly African and Oceanic sculptures. AA:F wishes to look at what exactly supported the importance of those primitive sculptures. There are many sources dealing with several facets of such influence. But we also see choices made by the carvers which remind us of aesthetic principles of Japanese art and society.
On the foundation of that, AA:F wishes to invite you to look at the collection assembled from an artistic point of view. The expression of the simple and powerful sculptures.
The concept and initial findings were published in an article recently published in Arts of Asia: “Simple and Powerful: Expression in Traditional Cordillera Art” (see http://www.artsofasianet.com/editorial/editorial.php, January/February issue), with the support from many outstanding scholars and gallery owners.
This focus does not mean that AA:F does not respect, or avoids discussing, the cultural and spiritual background which shaped the form, which is behind the selection and the treatment of the wood (carvers working on an object in the forest usually were in a state of intoxication).
And AA:F is extremely interested in learning to understand why traditional art of tribes of various continents, frequently show the same choices, use the same elements of expression, though we know that there was never an exchange, or at least not at the time of the creation of the relevant objects. This aspect is also discussed in the article referred to above, but there is so much to be added.
The discussion will continue on this website, on the occasion of publications and exhibitions, with regular updates. Please feel free to share your views.
See more in detail the article in Arts of Asia, January/February 2017 issue, pages 43 – 59, Link here: Traditional Cordillera Art: SIMPLE AND POWERFUL