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  • Glass, Pattern, and Translation: A Practical Exploration of Decorative Idiom and Material Mistranslation using Glass Murrine

Johnson, Owen, 2015, Thesis, Glass, Pattern, and Translation: A Practical Exploration of Decorative Idiom and Material Mistranslation using Glass Murrine PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

Can creative material translation reshape artistic appropriation to escape the cycle of mimicry and mockery linked to contemporary visual art practice?
To explore creativity in material translation, my project has been divided into three case studies, each translating a different pattern, from a different context and material, into my chosen pattern-making language of glass murrine. In the first case study I translate a Moorish plasterwork pattern from the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. This pattern has been copied before: a translation of fidelity printed by Owen Jones in his publication The Grammar of Ornament, 1856.1 Jones’ pattern and my patterns will be used to examine fidelity and infidelity in material translation. In the second case study I translate Paisley, a Kashmiri textile pattern appropriated and adapted by western manufacturers in the 19th-century. Paisley's history of adaptation will be examined in relation to my translation, to compare the two methods in the context of a single decorative idiom. In the third case study, I translate a stamp- printed furnishing textile pattern designed by Bernard Adeney in the 1930s. This translation will be an isolated interaction between two makers, a similar position to the critique of contemporary visual appropriation, allowing for a comparison between infidelity and appropriation.
Murrine has been chosen as my material language because of its ability to create patterns with colour, depth and unlimited variation. The murrine technique involves the heating up and stretching of canes or sheets of coloured glass, arranged in designs that become very small when elongated. These stretched lengths are then cut in cross-section to form mosaic tiles. Developed by the Greeks and Egyptians, the murrine technique has been under constant development for the last 2000 years. I have further refined the technique, incorporating new methods such as waterjet cutting.
I have made final artworks from each set of murrine in the format of flat glass panels, each exploring its pattern in a unique way. An examination of each artwork, its process of translation – including drawings, computer models, photomontage and other designing methods – and its material and contextual change will forge the link between making and writing in this project.

My original contribution to knowledge is the exploration of a practical act of visual translation, analysing material change and creativity. The project serves as a model for material translation, questioning the contemporary act of appropriation in both art and culture. The project developed through my rejection of contemporary practices of appropriation, along with my passion for the spiritual nature of pattern and the glass technique of murrine.
My theoretical framework is built around the linguistic concept of ‘creative translation’. Linguistic theorists such as Jorge Luis Borges ‘treated translation as a creative force in which specific translation strategies might serve a variety of cultural and social functions’.2 My project will adapt this linguistic concept to visual practice, investigating its relevance to material language.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W270 Ceramics Design
Creative Arts and Design > W700 Crafts > W770 Glass Crafts
School or Centre: School of Material
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2015 15:20
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2015 15:20
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1678

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