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Abstract Art

Art which does not represent reality as we see it, though it may be based on an actual individual, emotion or object. Taking its inspiration from the real world astract art uses lines, patterns, shapes, texture and colour for expression.

Acid Free Paper

Paper that has a neutral or basic pH value (7 or higher) and does not react with environmental agents, thus making it durable and increasing the longevity of art works created on it. Same as archival paper.

Acrylic Paint

Paint that uses a synthetic medium instead of a natural one, thus drying quickly.


The study of subjective sensory values, often referred to as appreiation or taste. It is a branch of the philosophical discipline axiology and is closely related to the philosophy of art.

Arches Paper

Air-dryed paper that is available in hot-pressed, cold-pressed and rough varieties. It is favoured for its durability and manufactures at the Arches Paper Mill in Lorraine, France.


Any material like ink or paper that meets certain criteria for durability. These criteria include light-fast and water-resistant (for ink), and acid-free, lignin-free and alkaline-buffered (for paper), etc.

Avant Garde

French for 'vanguard'. A group of people or a work of art that challenges norms through innovation in subject, medium, style, or technique, often with revolutionary or trendsetting consequences.


An artistic, architectural and musical style pioneered in Europe around the mid- 1500s and characterized by heavy and gaudy ornamentation, and curved lines rather than straight ones.


Italian for 'every other year'. Used most often to describe major art exhibitions that take place every two years like the Venice Biennale. The English word biennial is often substituted.


The organic or synthetic substance in paint that adheres particles of pigment to each other and to the support, including linseed oil, acrylic, egg etc.

Bird's Eye View

A downward perspective in a painting, giving the viewer a feeling of elevation in relation to the art work. Also known as aerial view.


An alloy of copper and zinc. It has a dull yellow colour, like gold and is relatively resistant to tarnishing.


An alloy of copper and tin, often with a little zinc mixed in, that has been used extensively to cast sculptures. Bronze varies in colour from a silverish grey to a deep copper red.


The indivdual way in which each artist applies paint to the support with various tools like brushes.


The printing and drawing term referring to the free use of lines for design and emphasis. Also refers to stylized lettering or handwriting in ink, created using various tools.


Closely woven cloth used as a support on which paint can be applied.


The process of making a sculpture by removing material from a given source like stone, such that it takes the form desired by the artist.


The process of making a sculpture by pouring a material like clay or metal in its liquid form into a mould. On hardening the material takes the form of the mould.


The technique of firing or baking clay objects in a kiln to create sculptures amongst other things.


A soft, black and brittle substance acquired when water and other volatile substance are removed from organic matter like wood. It is used for drawing, and is available in various forms (powder, compressed sticks, and natural) and consistencies (soft, medium and hard).


An organic material formed over time by processes of erosion and composed of fine-grained minerals. Clay is maleable depending on its water content, and can be hardened through drying or firing in a kiln.


Abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, the colours used in a four- colour printing process.


A work of art created through pasting various materials on a support like canvas, paper or board.

Colour Wheel

A circular representation of colours, based on colour theory and showing the relationship of complimentary and opposite colours.

Complimentary Colours

Colour pairs like red and green or yellow and violet that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, and are thought to be at their most intense when paired with each other. When mixed they produce a neutral colour.


The way in which the elements of a two-dimensional art work are organized on the surface to achieve balance.

Conceptual Art

Works of art in which the intangible concept and technique of execution are more important than the final, tangible product.


French for 'acquainted with'. A person with much experience and knowledge in a particular field. Art conisseurs exhibit a deep understanding of art works and artists, and their aesthetic judgement is respected. Their opinions are often sought on matters of appraisal and authenticity.


A stick of coloured material like wax or charcoal used in drawing, which may be water soluble. When the material used is oild chalk, the crayon may be called an oil pastel.


From the Greek for 'one who discerns'. A professional or amateur who offers observations, analysis, judegement (both subjective and reasoned) and interpretation of the work of others. The responses and reviews of critics are usually published.

Cross Hatching

A technique used to create a sense of depth or three-dimensionality on a flat surface through areas of closely spaced crossed or intersecting lines.


An artistic style pioneered by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the early 20th century, where forms are fragmented into their various geometric planes or facets. These planes are rearranged such that each form may be simultaneously viewed from several differnent angles.


Latin for 'overseer' or 'guardian'. A specialist responsible for either a single exhibition, or for an institution's collections and their cataloging.


An anti-establishment artistic movement that emerged in Europe during the First World War.The provocative and frequently nonsensical work of the Dadaists challenged the artistic norms and tastes of the period.

Digital Art

Art works that have either been created on a computer in digital form or significantly modified by a computing process.


The process of marking a surface by applying pressure on a tool and moving it across the surface. It differs from painting in that pigments suspended in a liquid medium are not used.


A stand or support used to hold a painting during its creation and for display.


In printmaking, sculpture and photogrophy the number of images or pieces that the artist authorizes can be made from a single plate, negative or mould.


The process by which three-dimensional images are created on certain ductile surfaces using a metal die and counter die that fit together and create impresions on the surface sandwiched between them, according to their mould. In printmaking, the pressure and heat are exerted by a letterpress machine and can be done in conjunction with coloured inks.


A printmaking process where acid is used to etch lines into the plate from which prints are made. The plate is covered with acid-resistant coating into which the desired design is scratched by a needle or other tools. The acid only affects the scratched parts, and the depth of the etched lines is related to the strength of the acid bath and duration for which the plate is immersed in it. The term also refers to the images created by employing this process.


A private or public showing of art works.

Figurative Art

Art that is inspired by the natural or visible world and uses tangible forms and objects to convey the artist's message. The human form or figure is the most common subject.

Fine Art

Art that is created on aesthetic rather than decorative grounds, to be understood and responded to on its own, without relation to anything else.


An artistic technique that uses pigments loosely dispersed in water that are applied to a damp plaster wall. The plaster acts as both binder and support.


A place reserved for the display of paintings and other work of art.

Gold Leaf

Gold that has been beaten into tissue thin sheets. It is used for gilding, and available in a range of shades and karats.


An artisitic and architectural style popular in Europe during the medieval period. Gothic art emphasised power and presence, and in architecture was most commonly used in cathedrals, universities and castles.


Watercolour paint that uses gum as a binder with an opaque white filler, giving a chalky finish to art works.


The visual presentation of information and images on any surface for functional or purely artistic purposes. Traditionally graphic art refers to drawing and printmaking, where the emphasis is on line rather than mass.


A photographic print that creates a three-dimensional effect on a two- dimensional surface.


The exact colour of an object.


The techinique of thickly applying paint to a support like canvas or board that emphasizes texture and three-dimensionality.


An artistic style that emerged in 20th century Europe and concentrates on portraying the effects of light and colour on a scene through irregular brushstrokes, impasto and other techniques.


A natural or synthetic dye with a distinctive blue colour. Also refers to the colour between blue and violet on the electromagnetic spectrum.


A relatively large, sculptural or mixed media form of art that consists of a variety of elements.


A two-dimensional art work where the subject matter is an external vista. Also refers to a specific physical orientation of a two-dimensional art work, where the width is greater than the height.

Limited Editions

Prints that are only produced in a fixed number under the artist's supervision, due to the limitations on the quality of impressions with some printmaking techniques and also because of market forces.

Linseed Oil

One of the most popular drying oils used as a medium for pigment in oil paint.


A printmaking technique where a greasy material is used to make a drawing on a zinc plate or limestone block. The plate is then wet and a greasy ink is applied to it. The ink sticks only to the lines that have been drawn. A moist paper is applied to the plate and a special press is used to make a print. The term also refers to the images created by employing this process.


An optical property of a surface which makes it appear dull or not-glossy because of its inability to reflect light in a particular way.

Medieval Art

The various forms of art produced during the Middle Ages, from around 500 A.D. until the 14th century and the beginnings of the Renaissance.


The liquid in which pigment is suspended along with the binder. For example, with oil paints, linseed oil is usually the medium. Also refers to he substance used by an artist for giving expression to his art. For example, a sculptor may use stone or bronze as his medium of expression.


A small scale art work or reproduction.


An artistic and architectural style of the mid 20th century, where a minimum of colour, line and decoration is used emphasising sparseness.

Mixed Media

A 20th century artistic style in which different types of physical materials are combined together. Also refers to an art work which represents a combination of various media into one production akin to modern day multimedia.


In three-dimensional art, referring to the shaping of form from some malleable or plastic material. In two-dimensional art, referring to the simulation of light and shadow on a flat surface to create the appearance of depth or three- dimensionality.


Having only one colour, or one predominant colour with variations in hue and tonality.


A symbol or motif formed out of two or more letters, most often the initials of a name.


An art work composed of other existing images from any source that are arranged such that they create a new image, much like a collage.


An art form in which small, variously coloured pieces of tile or glass are put together against a support to create a design or image.


French for 'pattern'. A repeated image or theme in a work of art, used for decorative or narrative purposes and may or may not have iconographic significance.


The shaped, hollow container used in sculpture casting to give its form to the molten substances like bronze that are placed within it. Moulds can either be in one single piece ans used only once, or in several pieces that can be taken apart and put together again to cast another sculpture.


A large format wall decoration created using any single art form like painting or mosaic, or a combination of various art forms.

Oil Paint

Paint that uses natural drying oils like linseed as their medium.


Tools used for applying paint to a support like canvas, usually made by clamping natural or synthetic bristles to a handle with a ferrule. They can have several different shapes, lengths and sizes depending on the type of application they are used for.


The process of marking a surface by applying pressure on a tool, most often a paint brush, and moving it across the surface. It differs from drawing in that pigments suspended in a liquid medium are used.


The flat tray on which an artist spreads out and mixes his colors while painting. Also used to describe a particular artist's choice of colours.


A thin support made of natural vegetable or synthetic fibers that have been amalgamated. The most common fibers are derived from wood pulp. Other sources are cotton, rice, polypropylene, etc.


A stick of dry pigment bound with gum. Also refers to the art works created using these sticks, and to certain soft, light shades of colours.


A surface layer of film or encrustation that forms on copper and bronze as a result of weathering, oxidataion or chemical treatment.

Pen and Ink

An artistic technique where ink, black or coloured, is applied to a support with a pen or other stylus.


A drawing or writing instrument made by encasing a stick of graphite in wood or metal. Traditionally refers to an artist's brush.

Performance Art

Works of art that do no consist of tangible objects, but rather a series of performed events by the artist for an audience.


A technique used to represent spatial relationships and three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional or flat surface.


An image created when light falls on a photo-sensitive surface, either film or an electronic chip. Most photographs are created using a camera that focuses visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the eye sees on such a surface.

Picture Plane

The foreground of a two-dimensional or flat work.


A natural or synthetic colouring substance that is mixed with various mediums and binders to create different kinds of paints, inks, or pastels.


An artistic style closely related to Impressionism, where the optical mixture of colour was emphasised over mixture on the palette or surface. Thus entire art works were created using tiny, separated dots of colour, and forms could only be made out at a distance. The inventor and most important artist associated with this type of painting is George Seurat.

Pop Art

An artistic style that emerged in Americal during the 1950s and 60s, which was inspired by the commerce and mass culture of the time. Major practicioners include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, etc.


A ceramic product that is fired to very high temperatures and usually has a fine, glossy glaze.


A two-dimensional art work where the subject matter is a human figure. Also refers to a specific physical orientation of a two-dimensional art work, where the height is greater than the width.

Potter's Wheel

A pottery tool that consists of a rotating wheel, either driven manually or electronically, on which clay is shaped into various forms.

Primary Colours

Any colour that cannot be created by mixing other colours (red, yellow and blue).


An image of which many copies are present. The image is typically made from one of several printmaking processes including lithography, serigraphy and woodblock, or developed from the negative of a photograph.


A category of fine art processes in which single or multiple impressions are made from the same plate or screen. These processes include lithography, serigraphy, woodcut, aquatint, etc.


An initial impression of a print, often referred to as working proof in the case of unfinished prints.


The relation of one part of a work of art to the whole. Also refers to the relative size of each form in a work of art.


An artistic style developed in 19th century France and influenced by the advent of photography, where reality and the artist's direct surroundings were expressed without any romanticisation.


French for 'rebirth'. The period in Europe from the 14th to 16th centuries, following the Middle Ages, where classical art, architecture, music, literature and philosophy flourished.


From Latin for 'look back'. An exhibition that allows viewers to look back at the career of a particular artist or a certain artistic period or movement.

Reverse Painting

An artistic technique where paint is applied to one side of a transparent sheet of glass, plastic or acrylic, and the art work is meant to be viewed through the sheet from the other side.


An artistic and architetural style that flourished in 18th century France, where frivolous and leisurely themes were communicated through ornamentation, pastel shades and shell-like, curved forms.


An artistic style of the 19th century that opposed Neo Classicism through the use of intense colours, emotional themes, complicated composition and soft lines.


A three-dimensional art work created by shaping material in one of several ways including assemblage, casting, and carving.

Secondary Colour

A colour that is obtained by mixing two primary colours (red, yellow and blue). Secondary colours are orange, violet and green.


A printmaking technique where ink is forced through one or more selectively blocked screens of stretched silk to achieve a multi-coloured, complex image.


From the Italian for 'smoke'. A technique where paint is applied in thin layers to achieve a hazy effect and frequently to portray distance.


The outer shape or outline of an object.

Still Life

A two-dimensional art work where the subject matter is an arrangement of objects like vases, fruits, etc.


A technique used to create a sense of depth or three-dimensionality on a flat surface through areas of closely spaced dots or marks.


The wooden frame on which a canvas is stretched and mounted before framing.


A work of art that is an initial attempt or part of the final work, but not the final work itself.


An artistic style pioneered in the early 20th century where spontaneity and fantasy or dream-like imagery was central, often resulting in irrational compositions.


A paint made by suspend pigment in a medium traditionally but not always made with egg. Tempera dries rapidly and generally produces a smooth but matte finish.


The nature of the surface of an art work.


An organic material used as a paint thinner and solvent.

Vanishing Point

In art work with a linear perspective, this is the point on the horizon at which parallel lines seem to converge.


A hard, transparent protective coating that is made of dissolved resin. Varnish usually adds a glossy finish to an art work.


The technique of broadly applying thin layers of dilute pigment to a surface, giving an almost transparent effect. Usually used with watercolours.


A transparent paint made with water soluble pigment and water as the medium and gum-arabic as the binder.


An embossed design used as an identification of the paper or papermaker. The embossing is done during production and can be seen when the paper is held up to the light.


A printmaking process where relief prints are made using a piece of carved wood instead of a plate.