Textile-Mediated Visual Culture: Re-orienting European Art through Asian Textiles
Tracing back to Asian territories, and using textile as a primary tool of investigation, in her talk Mariachiara Gasparini aims to shift standards and labels that characterize Medieval visual art in Europe.
Subjects related to the fields of art history and material culture tend to be investigated from a single European or Asian perspective only, which often neglects a more intercultural approach. Tracing back to Asian territories, and using textile as a primary tool of investigation, in her talk Mariachiara Gasparini aims to shift standards and labels that characterize Medieval visual art in Europe. Textile is a medium related to both material and visual culture; it is important for its two-dimensional aspect, which reflects and carries images and patterns, but also for its three-dimensionality, which follows local technical standards that are not always visible to the naked eye. As Sarah E. Fraser suggests, “the study of material culture involves tracking the status and deployment of material within a border cultural framework; it determines the biography of a single object and then ascertains how it circulates and becomes associated with other things, too” (“An Introduction to the Material Culture of Dunhuang Buddhism: Putting the Object in Its Place,” Asia Major, Third Series, vol. 17; 2). In this regard, looking at art as ‘transcultural,’ we can redefine the field, and extend the borders of European and Asian cultures. The processes of colonization, deportation, or diasporas of various groups of people (among them many artisans) in Eurasia, in fact, accompanied the osmosis of different forms of art, including the art of weaving that became and was perceived, especially during the Middle Ages, as a “universal,” non-verbal , form of communication. Originally created for Turko-Iranian and Chinese social and religious contexts, medieval Asian textiles from Eastern areas were acquired and translated into Western visual culture mediating the creation and presentation of European Christianity. This study was developed over a decade of research, based on material, visual, and written Asian and European sources, and has laid the foundation for a new digital research-project, which aims to disclose the Central Asian synthesis of Indian, Iranian, and Turkic clothing’ elements in the Kizil mural paintings, in Xinjiang, China, and to be a comprehensive study on the transformation of foreign elements into Chinese Buddhist art.
Mariachiara Gasparini studied Oriental Languages and Civilizations at University of Oriental Studies in Naples and East Asian Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. Her interests include historical, theoretical, and visual investigation of the history of Asian and Eurasian art and culture. She has taught Asian Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, at Santa Clara University, and at San Francisco State University. Her book Transcending Patterns: Silk Road Cultural and Artistic Interactions through Central Asian Textiles (7th–14th century) will be published by the University of Hawai’i Press in Fall 2019.