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one of the most ancient and popular forms of decorative art; an art that involves the cutting of wood, stone, bone, ganch (a material consisting of gypsum and clay), terra-cotta, and lacquer. Carving is used to embellish buildings and various household articles. In addition, small sculptures are sometimes created by means of carving. A special type of carving is glyptic.
Carving embraces a wide range of forms. Small free-standing sculptures are often produced in accord with certain specifications, such as proper use of the material and the creation of visually identifiable objects. High-relief carving is characterized by a deeply recessed background, which makes possible a multiplanar composition, with prominent forms and sharp contrasts of light and shadow. Flat, or planar, carving consists of a low relief, somewhat resembling a silhouette. There is often additional cutting that more clearly defines the design. One type of planar carving involves the slight rounding out of the edges of the carved design to achieve a soft and rich effect; the background is either lightly carved or not carved at all. Sunken carving is represented by two main techniques: three-edged cutting out and scraping. The former technique is characterized by a geometric design, and the latter by crescent-shaped ornamentation. The decorative expressiveness of sunken carving is based on a combination of graphically clear ornamental forms with chiaroscuro effects. Outlining carving consists of incised lines whose decorative rhythm is clearly indicated against the background. Filigree carving is achieved through the complete removal of the background. It creates a delicate and airy decorative composition. In filigree carving a colored background of a material differing from that of the carving is sometimes used for contrast (such as foil with carved birch bark). In applied carving, the carved design is placed on a smooth surface, creating an even background and eliminating the laborious cutting-out process.
To achieve a vivid decorative effect, different kinds of carving are sometimes combined, for example, applied carving with filigree carving or planar carving with outlining carving. Carving is also often combined with other artistic methods. Metal inlay may be applied to carved sculptures, high-relief carvings may be coated with an easily fusible metal, and outlining carvings may have pigments rubbed into them. To bring out the natural color or texture of a material or to give the material a desired color, carved artifacts are finished in various ways. Wooden articles are lacquered, waxed, stained, gilded, painted, burned, or smoked; bone articles are polished and saturated with paraffin.
The materials used in carving include soft woods (linden, aspen, poplar) and hard woods (birch, maple, beech, box). Stones of varying hardness are used: soft (gypseous stone, talcochlorite, limestone), hard (nephrite, azulite, jasper), and medium hard (malachite, marble). Materials used in bone carving are mainly mammoth, elephant, and walrus tusks. Depending on the specific problem of carving, blocks (monolithic pieces of stone, bones, and wood for sculpture) or plates (level planed boards for utility shelves and panels) are used.
Carving instruments vary. They include knives, axes, sets of chisels, various cutting tools, saws, and different kinds of boring instruments. Labor-intensive operations (sawing, the preparation of semifinished materials, the initial roughing in) are often done with mechanical or electric instruments—pneumatic chisels for stone and drills for bone.
V. A. BORODULIN