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Pet Sins October 2010 Issue
The flow of artistic influences between non-Europeans

In the West, popular awareness of intercultural artistic influences is often focused on whatever "exotic" foreign culture that Western media was fascinated with at a particular point in time. Picasso took inspiration from West African masks. The influence of japonisme on Impressionism and Art Nouveau is well known. Similarly, chinoiserie was the rage for a while in Europe, with European porcelain workshops imitating Chinese designs.

In more recent times, Japan's export of its cultural products around the world has brought on a wave of Japanese-themed art from non-Japanese artists. In some locations and circles, it seems every other white artist of European descent wants to use a Chinese-style or Japanese-style signature seal for a trademark, presumably because it looks "exotic and cool" ;-) Western media coverage of cross-cultural artistic borrrowings focuses primarily on white artists who borrow influences from non-European art forms, or on non-European cultures' admiration for and acceptance of Western art forms.

While there is nothing wrong with humans taking inspiration from other cultures, there is a need to expand our ideas of 'cultural exchange' beyond white imitation/appropriation of non-European visual language and non-Westerners' aping of European or European-American art. There are European/North American artists of color who create work combining Western and non-Western influences from outside their ethnic backgrounds, but their work does not always get attention . Likewise, not many people are aware of non-Western artists whose work is influenced by other non-European cultures. The fact is, non-Europeans have drawn cross-cultural artistic inspiration from each other for thousands of years.

Our January 2009 issue provides a glimpse at the deeep artistic and cultural influence that ancient India had on other non-European cultures. In this issue, we take a look at some successful modern non-white artists who have taken artistic inspirations from non-European cultures outside of their own ethnic heritage/geographical location.