Illustration Research Symposium: Decriminalising Ornament: The Pleasure of Pattern

Decriminalising Ornament

:The Pleasures of Pattern


9th International Illustration Research symposium 

17th and 18th of november 2018 

hosted by Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

The 9th International Illustration Research Symposium 
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
November 17-18th, 2018
This two-day research conference explores the nature of pattern and ornament within the context of illustration, printing and publishing and explores ideas and asks questions around its current state of appreciation, meaning and usage. Within the context of practice based research, international researchers, academics and practitioners will present their work and discuss their ideas. 
Alongside the conference there will be a Research Exhibition, featuring a collaborative installation by the graphic designer  Hansje van Halem and  printer/publisher Jan de Jong, as well as the research practice related to pattern and ornament of 13  contributing artists.
confirmed keynote speakers
  • Dr Alan Powers, Art historian, Researcher, Curator and Design Writer. 
Following a degree in History of Art from Cambridge, Alan received his doctorate on Architectural Education in Britain 1880-1914. He is a prolific writer for magazines and author of numerous books, amongst others Enid Marx, The Pleasures of Pattern 2018),  Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities (2003), Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design (2006) , Children's Book Covers, Great Book Jacket and Cover Design (2003). He has curated popular exhibitions, including Enid Marx: Print, Pattern and Popular Art, House of Illustration  (2018); Eric Ravilious, Imperial War Museum (2003); and Eros to the Ritz: 100 Years of Street Architecture, Royal Academy (2013).
As professor of architecture and cultural history at the University of Greenwich, Alan taught architectural history and theory for undergraduate and diploma courses from 1999-2012, and has been a frequent external examiner for PhD and other higher degrees. 
  • Dr Alice Twemlow, Design Writer, Critic and Educator.
Twemlow earned a Ph.D from the History of Design program run as a joint venture by the Royal College of Art and the V & A Museum in London. She has been a guest critic at the Yale University School of Art, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In 2006 Twemlow became the chair and co-founder of its Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism.
Alive Twemlow is a prolific writer and has written for amonst others Eye, Design and the New York magazine  Twemlow and contributed to online publication such as Voice and AIGA Journal of Design.
Twemlow is currently head of the MA in Design Curating & Writing at Design Academy Eindhoven, Lector Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KABK) in The Hague and Senior University Lecturer (guest) at Leiden University
Ornament : a thing used or serving to make something look more attractive but usually having no practical purpose  . Verb: to make (something) look more attractive by adding decorative items. 

— The Oxford Living Dictionary (online)

“Ornament is no longer a natural product of its culture, and
therefore represents backwardness or even a degenerative tendency.” 
—  Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime, 1908

In 1908 Adolf Loos declared ornament to be a  'backward' and 'degenerate' activity, counter to the utopian, ‘rationalist’ aims of the modernist movement, and called for it to be criminalised. This puritanical stance towards the decorative can be seen as a historical echo of the protestant Reformation in Europe which conflated decorative imagery in churches with corruption and decadent idolatry; the whitewashing of devotional spaces enacted as a form of moral cleansing. In contrast to this fraught relationship with ornament, the Islamic tradition of non-representational art puts great store in the rhythm and mathematics of pattern to express transcendental truths.

This year's Illustration Research Symposium seeks to draw together a range of perspectives on ornament and ornamentation, and its close relatives pattern and the decorative, to explore the resilience, continued value, significance, application, and creation of these cultural forms; celebrating their centrality within human life and cultural production, both past and present, and (speculatively), the future .

Speakers  explore the cultural importance of pattern, ornament and decoration. We begin from the observation that what is so often missing is the significance  – the meaning – of ornament, which has become lost or eroded, but was once all-pervasive.

The multiple practice-based and theoretical lenses invited to explore the topic, are firmly situated within an expanded definition of illustration, as the place where ornament historically resides as a form of visual production. However, we also have invited contributions which embrace the widest range of cultural, creative and technological perspectives  on ornament , including applications of ‘the ornamental ’  found within design, typography, architecture, and ‘other’ contexts.

To decriminalise ornament, is to place it back at the centre of human life, and not at the margins, where it has too long been banished as an unwanted and non-functional excess ; instead celebrating the pleasures of pattern, and our ongoing desire for the decorative.