How does an artist create a visual experience that takes the viewer from mundane cares to an otherworldly spiritualism? 

Solid matter or heavenly vision?

How does an artist create a visual experience that takes the viewer from mundane cares to an otherworldly spiritualism?  Byzantine and Islamic aesthetics aim for just this kind of transcendent experience.  The purpose of this exercise is to search for methods used by Byzantine and Islamic designers to evoke a sense of the divine, concentrating on examples from the 6th through the 10th centuries.

For this activity, search your text, the Excelsior Library or the Internet to find a sampling of Byzantine or Islamic architecture or interior decoration.  Choose one, such as an interior or a specific mosaic, to research and introduce to the class.   Analyze the work, considering how the designer attempted to connect the viewer to the sacred.  Think primarily in terms of style qualities referring to specific details in your example.

Keep in mind the following as you research and analyze:

  • If your example is a figurative work, what are the abstracted style qualities?  What is it about the image that veers from our optical perception of the world? How do figures invite us into their heavenly realm?
  • If your example is architectural, what is it about the structure that creates a mysterious ambience?  Does the exterior have the same dramatic appearance as the interior?
  • What materials are used, and how do they add to the effect?

Write the analysis of your example in a post consisting of 250 words, minimum.  Introduce your work to the class and provide its background information.  Next, describe the style qualities employed that contribute to an otherworldly effect.   What means did the designer use to create a sense of heaven on earth?  Lastly, describe specific details to illustrate your general observations.

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