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Narrative Art

Narrative art depicts events taking place over time, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of actions taking place in multiple frames. These may be compressed into a single image that implies something that has already happened or is about to happen. In this form, the artist defines how the story would be portrayed, the space that he/she chooses to represent and the manner in which time is shaped within the artwork. Types of narratives include -

a) A simultaneous narrative that focuses on repeatable patterns and redundant systems with an emphasis on dualities, the interpretation of which is dependent on the motivation behind the creation for the creator.

b) A monoscenic narrative displaying only a single scene.

c) A continuous narrative that displays multiple scenes from a story in a single frame.

d) A synoptic narrative that is representative of a character or characters in a single scene that are depicted numerous times in the frame to represent multiple actions taking place causing the sequence of events to be unclear.

e) A panoptic narrative depicting multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters.

f) A progressive narrative depicting a unitary scene without any repetition of characters.

g) A sequential narrative in which each action and sequence is represented within every frame as a unit.

In South Asia, royal courts from Cambodia and Java commissioned extensive narrative reliefs for temple walls portraying Buddha's life along with scenes from Hindu legends and mythology. These also contain detailed depictions of courtly and vernacular life, domestic customs, agriculture, industry, transport and architecture, music and dance.


Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Shrine (Kitano Tenjin Engi), Kamakura period (1185–1333), 13th century, Unidentified artist, Japan.