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Art Through Time: A Global View

Cosmology and Belief Compare: Why Do We Visualize Creation?

Te wehenga o Rangi Raua ko Papa (The Separation of Rangi and Papa)

Te wehenga o Rangi Raua ko Papa (The Separation of Rangi and Papa)
Artist / Origin: Cliff Whiting (Maori, b. 1936)
Region: Oceania
Date: 1969–76
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Carved and painted wood
Medium: Sculpture
Location: National Library of New Zealand, Wellington, NZ
Credit: Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand and the artist

Vishnu Reclining on a Serpent from the Bhagavata Purana

Vishnu Reclining on a Serpent from the Bhagavata Purana
Artist / Origin: Kalurama (Indian, n.d.)
Region: South and Southeast Asia
Date: 1863
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Paint on paper
Medium: Painting
Location: The British Library, London, UK
Credit: Courtesy of HIP/Art Resource, NY

Why do we visualize creation?

Virtually every culture and every religion has a story that explains the beginnings of the universe, the world, or humankind. Often, these stories of creation are translated into visual form. Art helps to spread knowledge of the creation myth, sustain belief by offering a concrete picture of origination, and on occasion, breathe new life into traditional narratives.

Questions to Consider

  • Both of these images represent moments in creation myths. Do you think that they are independently comprehensible or would you need text or prior knowledge to understand them? What does your answer suggest about the purpose of such images?
  • What does each of these artists add to the story he illustrates? Think in terms of both form and content. How do these choices on the part of the artist impact the meaning or impact of the work?
  • Consider the context in which each of these works was intended to be seen. Why do you think the subject of creation was considered relevant to each of these settings?

Series Directory

Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2