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The decorative arts - what determines high quality?

Quality decorative art is that which makes its viewers believe there is meaning beyond its decorative nature. It must tell a story that connects it to other objects preceding it, and those coming after. It has a unique character that distinguishes it from other objects in a room. It stands out above the other pieces of furniture and art.

The object’s functionality is almost secondary to quality decorative art. When someone first glances upon it, it looks like it has no practical purpose. To look too functional, in fact, is a sign of lesser quality. Viewers are first compelled to look at it because they cannot, and do not wish to, understand its purpose. Only after they spend some time observing the object is it possible to discern how it can be used.

Clara Andrade

The pursuit of the decorative arts is a uniquely human activity.

At what point in our evolution did we decide that our living spaces needed a little brightening up? Or perhaps, even a makeover? What other creature on the planet does this and why do the decorative arts exist at all?

The renaissance churches of Rome are prime examples of the use of the decorative arts as a tool to focus the mind of a congregation on the divine. Their interiors are resplendent in decorative art that is loaded with religious imagery and symbolism. Ornate fresco ceilings, carved timber altars, gold and silver artifacts, oil paintings and stained glass depicting religious characters and events are breathtakingly effective in creating what feels like a heavenly sanctuary.

Outside of the realm of God, even the most austere mortals usually have decorative art in their homes. Decorating is a way to achieve a representation of how we see ourselves or of our memories and aspirations.

Humans have always used stories to understand their history and as an expression of culture. The decorative arts are a vehicle for us to tell our stories to others and to remind ourselves of them.

Robert Carrick

And now for a little humour ...

The bell over the antiques store door jingled, disturbing the stillness of Mr Randolph’s solitude. A dusty sigh eased from him as he rose to aching feet and ankles, and he hobbled out to the shop floor.

When he reached the doorway from the back room he paused, taking in the creatures before him. Wearing baggy black shirts and pants, and with intricately coloured tattoos etched across much of their visible skin, three of what Randolph assumed were young people browsed his shelves. Yes, past the piercings and funky hair they were quite young. They each held up a phone in front of them, as if filtering their view through their devices.

Mr Randolph cleared his throat. 'Can I help you?'

All three of the youngsters ignored him.

With a light groan, Randolph moved in his lopsided walk around the counter. He raised his voice. 'Hello. Can I help you?'

One of them did look at him then, albeit still holding their phone as a medium between them. 'This old man is the friendly proprietor,' she said, before finally looking at him. 'We’re looking for some high quality decorative art.'

Randolph blinked several times. 'What for?'

'A writing exercise we’ve been given.'

Randolph fought and defeated the urge to grumpily cross his arms. 'Well, what’s that for?'

The one boy in the group put his phone into a pocket, gazing around with fresh eyes. 'There doesn’t seem to be any here.'

Mr Randolph spluttered. 'What does that mean?'

'It’s just, y’know, none of this has any pizazz. I’m not feeling the chemistry. Everything’s just old.'

'Where did you do your research?'

'The internet. Youtube.'

'And that gives you an unqualified opinion?'

The first girl brought her phone down too. 'They talked about people like you.'

'What? Like conspiracy theorists?'

'No. Like people so set in their ways that they forget why they loved their art in the first place, who stick to arbitrary sets of criteria and overlook the dynamic soul-searching mission of integrating the depths of personal meaning with an external pursuit of material excellence, which naturally manifests symmetries that people find pleasing on multiple aesthetic levels.'

Mr Randolph stared at the young lady with his mouth open.

Also,' said the third girl at the back, 'my app says these teapots are fake.'

In short order the bell jingled over the door again, and Mr Randolph was alone.

Matt Jackson

Copyright: text Clara Andrade, Robert Carrick, Matt Jackson; photos Wix.

This SSOA blog showcases the original thoughts and writing of emerging writers who attend our weekly writers' meetups. We can be reached via the contact page.


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