CCHU9018 Humanities
Art and Ideas: East and West


Course Description

This course is about ideas that are related to art, art history and visual culture across cultural boundaries of “the East” and “the West”. It is designed to explore ideas about art, such as how art functions in various societies and its meanings. It will examine artistic traditions, the functions of art and its institutions such as patronage, art market, and roles of the artist across cultures, and will challenge assumptions about separation of cultural realms into eastern and western areas. The course will explore key monuments and concepts that shaped artistic traditions, techniques, and media and continue to define today’s international visual environment.

Art as a concept belongs to all cultures, and deploys similar strategies to create meaning. Through the application of linguistic theories, the course will look at strategies of art production and consider the meanings of certain works of art within specific cultural and historical situations. It aims to develop the skills of asking questions of a work of art and using historical knowledge along with some careful looking to answer these questions. Students will encounter works of art, not necessarily in chronological order, but connected together by common themes.

[Dr. Hammers will participate in a research conference and will cancel the lecture scheduled for Wednesday, September 13. In order to make up this canceled lecture, this course will meet on Saturday, September 23 from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon at a room (venue to be determined) on the HKU campus. Student attendance to this make-up lecture is compulsory.]

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze the formal elements (that is the appearance) of selected examples of works of art, explain the historical meaning of these works of art, and articulate how these works of art make meaning within their cultural context.
  2. Demonstrate an awareness of underlying principles of artistic practices across cultures, that explain how the concept of art is constructed within Europe and Asia.
  3. Explain the processes through which art makes meaning vis-à-vis tradition and innovation.
  4. Discuss the roles of artist-activists in different societies to challenge established conventions and explain how artist-activists engage with issues of ethics in art.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 9
Reading / Self-study 100
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: In-class test (incl preparation) 15
Total: 168

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class tests 50
Tutorial discussions 20
First paper 15
Second paper 15

Required Reading

Selections from:

  • Addiss, S. (1989). The art of Zen: Paintings and calligraphy by Japanese monks, 1600-1925. New York: H. N. Abrams.
  • Barnet, S. (2005). A short guide to writing about art (8th ed.). Hong Kong: Pearson Longman.  
  • Barthes, R. (1972). Mythologies (Selected and translated by Annette Lavers). New York: Hill and Wang.
  • Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial hells: Participatory art and the politics of spectatorship. London; New York: Verso Books.
  • Chipp, H. B., Selz, P. H., & Taylor, J. C. (1968). Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) “Letters”. In Theories of modern art: A source book by artists and critics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Klanten, R. (Ed.). (2011). Art and agenda: political art and activism. Berlin: Gestalten.
  • Lazzari, M. R., & Schlesier, D. (2005). Exploring art: A global, thematic approach. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
  • Lin, Y. (1967). The Chinese theory of art: Translations from the masters of Chinese art (pp. 140-43). London: Heinemann.
  • Liu, X., Kelley, J., & Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. (2006). The Three Gorges Project: Paintings by Liu Xiaodong. San Francisco, CA: Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture.
  • Macy, L. W. (Ed.). (1998-). Grove’s dictionary of art online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Munroe, A., Yokohama Bijutsukan, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum., & San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (1994). Japanese art after 1945: Scream against the sky. New York: H. N. Abrams.
  • Schaarschmidt-Richter, I., Städtische Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, & Kokusai Kōryū Kikin. (2000). Japanese modern art: Painting from 1910 to 1970. Zurich: Edition Stemmle.
  • Wang, Y. (2000). Looking at Chinese painting. Tokyo: Nigensha.
  • Wilkins, D. G., Schultz, B., & Linduff, K. M. (2005). Art past, art present. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr R.L. Hammers
School of Humanities (Fine Arts), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2612
Email: rhammers@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr R.L. Hammers
School of Humanities (Fine Arts), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2612
Email: rhammers@hku.hk