Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Joy of Ornament

"Jones showed me that decoration is what is merely added to something, whereas ornament is part of an artefact's essential self," writes Tom Philips RA in his celebration of Owen Jones, compiler of The Grammar of Ornament, in the current RA Magazine

Walking along the Regent's Canal on Monday, it was a joy to see the richness of architectural detail in the bridges along the way, intrinsic to the structures. Equally inspiring was the traditional Narrow Boat typography, with its drop shadows and slab serifs, and the ebullient floral motifs on boats, watering cans, jugs and anything that didn't move quick enough. 

However, just a few metres along the tow path you come to this. I wouldn't dare start describe which ornamental category this might fit into.

Jones' Grammar of Ornament overwhelmed me the first time I saw it and still has the power to absorb and inspire almost endlessly. 
At the V&A until November is 'A Higher Ambition: Owen Jones (1809-1874)', an exhibition on ornament paying tribute to Owen Jones, the compiler of the encyclopaedic tome on the subject.