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Oceanic Art Objects Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2019

The foremost stylistic commonality between Matua, Abelam and Baining people’s masks account for the fact that all three of them emanate the unmistakable spirit of aesthetic primitiveness. In its turn, this spirit is being reflective of the designers’ of all three masks tendency to hypertrophy their masks’ facial features. For example, Matua mask features the unnaturally long and grotesquely protruding tongue.

In its turn, the design of Abelam mask appears to be subliminal of its creator’s deep-seated anxieties as to what he or she perceived as the ‘power of eyes’ – hence, the unnaturally enlarged eyes, featured on this particular mask. Baining people’s mask, on the other hand, places emphasis on the stylistic distinctiveness of both: eyes and lips.

The actual reason why the earlier mentioned aspects of all three masks’ stylistic distinctiveness appear to reflect the creators’ rather unrefined sense of aesthetics is quite apparent. Artist’s tendency to hypertrophy a particular facial feature, at the expense of paying lesser attention to other features, signifies his or her inability to mentally conceive its artistic creation as a whole, before it assumes any physical shape.

Apparently, those who designed all three masks experienced a certain cognitive difficulty, throughout the course of a creative process, because these masks’ appearance radiates the aura of a ‘creative impulsiveness’ – the concerned artists did not have much of a ‘plan’ as to what their masks’ exterior would end up being.

They simply acted on behalf of their animalistic anxieties. The foremost characteristic of a highly refined artistic style, however, is such a style’s detachment from ‘animalistic unconsciousness’.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that this implies all three masks’ aesthetic sameness. Moreover, there can also be few doubts that, theoretically speaking, all three masks represent a certain artistic value. The validity of this statement is being specifically illustrative in regards to Matua mask.

After all, just as it is being the case with truly valuable pieces of art, this mask appears being capable of invoking a number of strong emotions in spectators. However, given this mask’s vicious appearance, we can hypothesize that these emotions would be necessarily fear-driven.

Essentially the same can be said about Abelam mask, in regards to how it is being capable of triggering strongly defined emotional responses in onlookers. Yet, there is a difference – whereas, Matua mask’s foremost aesthetic purpose is being concerned with its ability to intimidate, Abelam mask appears to have been designed to dazzle.

This is because, even though this mask’s unnaturally enlarged eyes are still being recognized by spectators as ‘eyes’ per se, their appearance emit a strong spirit of a bizarre strangeness.

Baining people’s mask also has the power of evoking a number of different emotions, in those who gaze upon it, which can be explained by the fact that this mask features disproportionally enlarged eyes and lips. And, it is in people’s very nature to pay attention to what their unconsciousness defines as ‘unnatural’.

Yet; whereas, the majority of mentally adequate individuals find the artistic emanations of ‘unnaturalness’ as being rather aesthetically distasteful, there many intellectually primitive people for whom these emanations do appeal.

Apparently, whoever created Baining mask, had a good reason believe that his/her creation’s appearance would correlate with the workings of people’s primeval psyche, which in turn tend to ‘subjectualize’ nature, as opposed to ‘objectualizing’ it, as it is being the case with the workings of intellectually advanced individuals’ psyche.

What has been said earlier about masks, applies to the Solomon island male sculpture, the Maori island sculpture and the Rapa Nui sculpture, as well. That is, all these three sculptures feature disproportionally enlarged body-parts – specifically, heads. This, of course, has to do with the fact that the creators of these sculptures have never even heard of what the concept of linear perspective stands for.

Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that all three sculptures emanate the clearly defined spirit of an aesthetic primitiveness. The grotesque subtleties of this impression are being strengthened even further by the fact that, unlike what it is being the case with Western practitioners of an ‘artistic primitivism’, those who created these sculptures did try to make them as realistically looking, as possible.

The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated in regards to the protruding penis, prominently displayed as a part of the Solomon island sculpture, for example.

Evidently, ensuring that spectators would be able to properly identify this sculpture’s gender-affiliation, was an integral part of its creator’s artistic agenda. This, of course, implies that that there was not much of an ‘art’ to this agenda, in the first place – just as there is not much of an ‘art’ to the drawings of three-year-old kids.

The observation of what accounts for the qualitative nature of all three sculptures’ facial expressions, supports the legitimacy of this suggestion even more. This is because there can be few doubts as to the fact that:

  • these expressions were supposed to emanate emotional intensity (all three sculptures were supposed to look utterly angry/evil),
  • artists lacked the basic understanding of what accounts for ensuring sculptures’ three-dimensional life-likeness.

Therefore; whereas, these sculptures may indeed appear ‘scary’ to the people who failed to evolve beyond the Stone Age, intellectually advanced Westerners, endowed with the well-developed sense of an artistic finesse, will experience a hard time trying not to laugh, while exposed to the sight of the earlier mentioned sculptural ‘masterpieces’.

Nevertheless, even though that the aesthetic primitiveness is the most easily identifiable feature of all three sculptures, there are variations to this primitiveness in each individual case. For example, the Solomon island male sculpture does not appear being decorated with any woodcarving ornamentations, whatsoever.

The same, however, cannot be said about the Maori sculpture – it is being richly decorated with a number of such ornamentations. This, of course, significantly increases the artistic value of this particular sculpture. Apparently, its creator was endowed with the rudimentary sense of aesthetics, after all.

Unfortunately, this clearly has not been the case with the creator of Rapa Nui sculpture. After all, even a brief glance at the concerned sculpture reveals the fact that its author did not only lack the sense of bodily proportions, but that he/she clearly thought of female breasts as such that serve solely functional purposes – hence, sculpture breasts’ utterly unsightly appearance.

This again points out to the spirit of aesthetic primitiveness, emanated by this particular sculpture – just as it is being the case with all primitive savages, the creator of Rapa Nui sculpture used to think of surrounding reality’s manifestations in terms of how they relate to the notions of usefulness, on the one hand, and non-usefulness, on the other.

What it means is that Rapa Nui sculpture cannot have any aesthetic value, by definition, because being intellectually primitive individual, its creator would never be able to understand the difference between the concepts of ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’, in the first place.

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"Oceanic Art Objects." IvyPanda, 4 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/oceanic-art-objects/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Oceanic Art Objects." June 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/oceanic-art-objects/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Oceanic Art Objects'. 4 June.

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