Academic Session 14: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017

Holding Patterns


Moran Sheleg, University College London,
Aline Guillermet, University of Cambridge,

The distinction between ‘free’ and ‘adherent’ beauty, which goes back to Immanuel Kant’s third Critique, has to a large extent shaped the debate around the aesthetic status of the ornamental arabesque throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. So, too, has it continued to polarise the production and reception of 20th-century abstraction, opposing geometric purity to more mimetic, or biomorphic, forms. A closer look at the history of ornamentation, however, reveals that repetitive patterns have consistently mediated between abstraction and figuration. This panel seeks to explore how artistic approaches to repetitive visual motifs and decorative patterns have contested the hold of such enduring critical dichotomies since the mid-20th century.

In what ways could ornamentation, despite its use as a rhetorical device in modernist ideology (Loos), and subsequent incorporation into the logic of early capitalism (Kracauer) and contemporary commodity culture (Warhol, Buren, Neo-Geo art), remain an enduring form of artistic production? Following the polemical debates surrounding both abstract and figurative painting during the 1960s and 1980s respectively, is pattern consequently doomed to carry the mantle of pastiche, or can it, on the contrary, facilitate emerging forms of subversion? Finally, how have ideas around gender, cultural identity, and subjectivity been reconfigured through the mediation that the ornamental aesthetic offers? This panel critically reconsiders these issues in relation to artistic practices from a variety of regional contexts from the 1960s onwards.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Ben Highmore (University of Sussex) Part of the Furniture: Post-Brutalist abstractions and domestic space

Jonathan Vernon (The Courtauld Institute of Art and The Burlington Magazine) A Shape of Time: Sidney Geist, Brâncu?i and the ‘Decorative’ Pedestal

Moran Sheleg (University College London) Bridget Riley’s Arabesquephilia

Victoria Mitchell (Norwich University of the Arts) Ornament, Dream and Carpet: Troubling encounters and other-worldliness in the work of Anne Deguelle and Rudolf Stingel