My work employs the linguistic concept of creative translation to readdress the appropriation of visual culture, as a method of growth and expression. My practice appropriates existing decorative patterns and motifs, taking them through a process of material translation, by employing craft methods like the Murrini glass technique. Each decorative pattern I explore is developed by my artistic interaction, and my introduction of new making materials, creating a unique visual language. My artwork uses this visual language to create abstract imagery and objects, that re-imagine pattern as a visual expression of reflection and reverence, closely linked to abstract painting.
My process subverts appropriation and its twentieth-century applications, instead exploring copying as a method of developing new patterns and creating unexpected imagery. I am searching for the heart of a visual culture, to become a part of its history, and most of all to develop something new and unique.
Glass, Pattern, and Translation: A practical exploration of decorative idiom and material translation
Can creative material translation reshaped artistic appropriation to escape the cycle of mimicry and mockery linked to contemporary visual practice? What role do fidelity and material ‘kinship’ play in visual material translation?
To explore creativity in material translation, my project has been split up into three case studies, each translating a different pattern, from a different context and material, into my chosen pattern-making language of glass Murrini. In the first case study I will translate a Moorish plasterwork pattern from the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. This pattern has been copied before, a translation of fidelity created by Owen Jones in his publication The Grammar of Ornament, 1856. Jones’ pattern and my patterns will be used to examine fidelity and infidelity in material translation. In the second case study I will translate paisley, a Kashmiri textile pattern appropriated by western manufacturers in the eighteenth century. Paisley’s history of appropriation will be examined in relation to my translation, to compare the two methods within the context of a single decorative idiom. In the third case study, I will translate a stamp printed furniture fabric pattern designed by Bernard Adeney, from the 1950s. This translation will be an isolated interaction between two makers and two material methods, allowing for an examination of influence, infidelity and material invention.
Murrini has been chosen as my material language because of its ability to create patterns with colour, depth and unlimited variation. The Murrini 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 Murrini technique has been under constant development for the last two thousand years. I have further refined the technique, incorporating new methods of production, such as water jet cutting.
An artwork will be created from each set of Murrini in the form of a glass panel, with each panel exploring its pattern in a unique way. An examination of each artwork, its process of translation – including drawings, computer models, photomontage and other pattern designing methods – and its material and contextual change will provide the link between making and writing in this project.
My project’s 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 has developed through my rejection of contemporary practices of appropriation, along with my passion for the spiritual nature of pattern and the glass technique of Murrini.
The project’s theoretical framework is built around the linguistic concept of creative translation. Linguistic theorists like Jorge Luis Borges ‘treated translation as a creative force in which specific translation strategies might serve a variety of cultural and social functions’. My project will adapt this linguistic concept of creative translation to visual practice, questioning its relevance to material language.