STYLING the STYLE – Part 1

Post 592 by Gautam Shah

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A style is a distinctive involvement by an individual. This approach is perceived by others to have diverse potential for application, in the same or different practices. The expression, in the physical work or the discourse, results from the local environment, such as the climate, geography, the society and the times. This gets also reflected in many other aspects of innovators’ personal lifestyle, and in some form dissipates in the society. So a personal style becomes universal by emulative confirmation. Some elements of the original style seem to persist in spite of the new environment, such as culture, technology, field of application and mode of expression.

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Tribuna of Uffizi > Wikipedia image by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)

Mannerism spreads in a different locality, time period, different forms and fields. This shifting of emulation by individuals could be for a while, sporadic, but a group coalesces to propound it vigorously as cultural heritage or innovative approach. The select components include colour, pattern, form, emphasis, representation or construction, perceptive likeness and abstract or unknown conveyance of meaning.

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Pictorial brick depicting a Chinese Courtyard Wikipedia image by Editor at Large

The first art-form to be emulated were the uttered sounds. A community impresses other ‘neighbours’ by the arrangement, succinct meaning and the ‘manner’ of conveyance. These were intricately connected to universal conditions like postures, gestures, tools, foods, and rituals like hunting, caring for children, birth, death etc. The local character to the utterances was endowed by the spatial acoustics (of terrain and built spaces) and environmental affectations. The next art forms were the personalization of the body, tools, utilities and habitable environs. These patterns and colours were regional and tribe-based, due to local material resources and used for ‘universal conditions’.

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BaKongo masks Kongo, Africa > Ethnicity of manners > Wikipedia image by Ndoto ya Afrika

These forms were initially representations of the ‘culture’ but not stylized expressions. But few individuals were proficient in it. These were the mannerist of the society, appreciated for the skill and copied by others. But the mannerisms spread from local to regional segments. The spread was slow in time, and became diffused with distance. The operative distance was what one could travel, and recall the practice. The mannerists were not classicists to be discussed or commented upon by the critics. And wherever these practices, were fortified by terrestrial seclusion or political isolation, became ethnic traditions.

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Arrest of St Mark in Synagogue with Muslim dress influences > Wikipedia image by Giovanni di Niccolo Mansueti (1485-1527)

No one had qualms about adapting, converting and mixing influences like Gods, fables, heroes, religious rights, drama characters, dogmas, recipes, motifs, festivals, dresses and adornments. This was part of personal creativity, but was also used for convincing a sponsor or buyer for it. Roman art is influenced by neighbouring cultures but was also used for the rulers. ‘Roman art periods are branded with rulers or dynasties’ and not by the art-creators. Roman arts and crafts in spite of adaptations from others, and after being ‘emulated by other across times and territories, maintains its own essence.

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Cross regional influences Philae Columns Egypt > Wikipedia image by Mohammed Moussa

Any art-form, be it a personal statement or representation of ‘manner’ can be analyzed, on hindsight, into various effects. It originates from time and space realities. Its components find justification or raison d’etre when distanced. Most styles are identified by critics or rivals more for deriding it rather than appreciating it. Historic art and architectural styles were identified after the relevant periods were nearly extinct, or its originators not in practice. This was perhaps due to lack of faster communication and wider dissemination. Lack of communication did not allow immediate coalescence of thoughts and dissemination was slow as image transmission was nearly nonexistent. The art-forms, such as art, architecture could only be visited or transmitted over longer duration. The essence of the style, however, spread through many crafts, artefacts, adornments, performing arts, literature, etc.

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Monkeys as Judges of Art > Wikipedia image by Gabriel von Max (1840-1915)

This spread became faster and intensive during the Industrial age for several reasons, publication of quality images through print media, faster and easier travel by steam-power over land and sea, weakening of the moneyed sponsorship by likes of church, industrial houses, political powers, etc. and greater distribution of arts and crafts. Creative people began to interact with others more frequently, who unlike the non-practicing critics were less derisive. The creators on their own were more conscious of meaning of expression and were self-critic.

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Shawls of 19th C France > Wikipedia image by Durin

StyleBeards

Beard Styles

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