Oddly, within the context
of this blog, William Morris has not been an example or Master in my experience
as an artist. More than that, as a painter I wanted to write about Goya instead
(and beautiful pieces about Goya have indeed been written on this blog).
However, as my work continuously changes and moves into various pathways, new
people and new sources of inspiration appear. In this way I discovered the
magical world of William Morris.
In search of abstraction, I
had been working on patterns for a while, when a friend showed me a book about
Morris. Wow, it was beautiful. And impossible to equal. But I identified with
the dynamic playfulness in his designs.
Probably, William Morris
has been the most important designer in the 19th century. His style was placed
in the 'Fantasy'genre. It consists of romantic, dreamy, fairytalelike
images, which attract me very much. You can get lost in them, while they stay
fresh and tight.
Corncockle furnishing fabrik
Besides his elaborate and
ceaseless designs, there are more reasons why I look at William Morris as a
remarkable Master. One of them is his idealistic view on society and his
longing for equality of all people. To his own frustration, he could not live
up to his ideals – his designs were popular especially with the richer circles,
which led to higher pricetags. However, he tried to compensate for this by
treating his laborers as equal to himself and he created a good working
atmosphere in his studio.
William Morris is
especially known as the spiritual father of the Arts and Crafts movement in
Western Europe. In this role, he was a multifaceted man, which is another
reason for his remarkableness. He was involved in literature by designing, printing
and publishing books. He designed wallpapers, textiles, tiles, carpets,
furniture, leaded glass and interiors. Many renowned artists were connected to
his firm – Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co (Source: Wikipedia/ William
From looking at Islamic as
well as western sources he saw the beauty of repetition, symmetry and
simplification. The beauty of a William Morris pattern, that the Google doodle
captures very well, lies in its combination of simplicity and richness.
The patterns he designed are
still famous worldwide and cherished particularly within wealthy classes. The
patterns are patented, but they are continuously reprinted on utensils as
blankets and pillows. Still, walls are being decorated charmingly for
substantial sums of money with the patterns of this Master, beds are being
spread with fairytalelike scenes, and couches are being seated on surrounded
by gracious pillows. This way, his designs stay in existence and appear as
ageless among the wealthy. But would William Morris, with his aversion for mass
production and class societies, not turn in his grave if he would be able to
see this endless reprinting of his patterns for the rich?
Frequently, animals play an
important role within his interweaved flowery patterns. Birds, peacocks, but
rabbits as well. One of his famous designs is called 'Brer Rabbit'. This
brother rabbit reminds me of the dreamworld full with animals by the cartoonist
Winsor McCay. Would McCay have been inspired by William Morris? He, likewise,
had a distinctively elegant, tight and strong handwriting. In comic books, he
assembled perspectives in ingenious ways, like a kind of Alice in Wonderland.
Wild Patterns (detail)
on paper, wallrelief
In my own work, in search
for a more abstract way of thinking, I have started thinking in patterns more
and more. Recently, I was able to apply this for a commission in which I
transformed a small piece of forest into an enchanting place. I wanted a homely
atmosphere to arise in the dark, which would lean towards spookiness.
I particularly wanted the
patterns to break out of their frames, in order to take shape as overgrowth.
Instantaneously, this is what clearly distinguishes my patterns from Williams
patterns. His patterns neatly stay within its twodimensional boundaries,
whereas my patterns need their three-dimensional escapes.