Our newest exhibition is a chance to see treasures and curiosities from the Tair‚whiti Museumís permanent collection through the delights and wonders of ornament. Every culture in the world has a tradition of ornament. Ornament is the art that adorns art, the shapes and patterns of line and colour that artists apply to buildings or objects in order to produce pleasure and delight in the viewer. Architecture is the grand home of ornament, and ornament is the element of architecture that gives buildings their distinctive and pleasurable qualities. From the scrolls and curlicues of a nineteenth century bank or hotel, to the subtle, restrained ornament of a modern library or office, ornament crowns architecture, completes it. The importance of ornament in architecture is shared across M‚ori and P‚keh‚ society. The whare whakairo, decorated meeting house, is now recognised as the most prestigious expression of M‚ori art, and it is notable for its complex and integrated use of ornament. Ornament is also an important and prestigious element of much P‚keh‚ architecture, particularly in the nineteenth century, where architects and craftspeople showed their knowledge of centuries of ornament and design. For most progressive architects and designers, a lack of ornament became a defining feature of the modern age. Removing ornament was partly a response to the perceived excesses of the nineteenth century, and partly a political gesture - getting rid of symbolic imagery that carried associations of class and difference. The pure lines of modern architecture and design, so unlike any other period of human culture, were the clearest sign that a new age had arrived. Ornament: The Art of Pleasure showcases the beauty and importance of ornament. It explores ornamentís use across all forms of objects and art making, from grand buildings to the tools and functional objects of the workshop or garden.
H.A. Busby Woolshed near Tolaga Bay. East Coast, NZ. 1974 Oil on canvas 2003.68
Itís common to think of a picture frame as something that comes after the main event, the artwork itself. When we look at a painting or photograph, we donít pay much attention to the frame. But increasingly we are starting to realise how important this border actually is. Some frames, especially on old master paintings, are works of art themselves, brilliant displays of artistic invention and skill. Even the more humble artworks from the twentieth century on display here have some fine frames. And conceptually, the frame is crucial, separating the artwork from the wall on which it hangs and acting as a sign of value and prestige. A heavily decorated and substantial frame tells us that the work within it is important, valuable, high culture. Without the frame, the picture is severely diminished. Which tells us that maybe the frame isnít so secondary after all?
Measham Ware Teapot c.1893 ceramic 1964.2343
This teapot was given to William and Annie Lindley of Yorkshire, England, on their wedding day in 1893. After emigrating to New Zealand, the Lindleyís lived in Berry Street, Gisborne. Measham Ware, as such ceramics came to be called, were first produced around 1870 in Pool Village, Derbyshire. They later became popular in Cut End, Measham, Leicestershire, with the barge people who worked on the Ashby La Zouch canal. The best pieces were commissioned, and decorated with the names of the intended owners. Unfortunately the distinctive miniature teapot on the lid was broken and lost before the teapot entered into the museumís collection, but it still is a wonderful example of the brown glaze and moulded birds, flowers and fruit that decorated Measham Ware.
Wahaika wood, pāua 1954.732
One of the things that fascinated early European observers about Māori culture was the beautiful ornament applied to functional objects, something that is even more striking to us today, in a time when functional and ornamental sit so far apart.
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