Illustration – The Book of Kells

Illustration is seen by many as the oldest form of visual communication and one that has had major influence over the way in which people have perceived life. Dating as far back as 2000 years, illustration has recorded many subjects such as social and cultural change, religion and politics.

Before my introduction to illustration I thought I had a decent understanding of the subject – I was wrong.  I underestimated the historical value, the symbolism and the effort put into producing them. What really interested me was the use of illustration to spread the word of religion, most notably that of the book of kells. The manuscript which contains the four gospels was originally produced in a monastery on the Isle of Iona, Scotland. However is now preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. The book was crucial for Christian belief, offering widespread exposure and understanding.

Having both Scottish and Irish relations, I have always had an interest in Celtic illustrations and designs. The sheer intricacy and effort put into each illustration and decoration is mind-blowing. The book format increased space for better composition between text and imagery, improving the experience of reading. Containing 680 individual pages of unique illustrations and type, It seen by many as the finest surviving manuscript produced in medieval Europe. With details so fine, the use of a magnifying glass is often needed to see more clearly.

“Look closely at it and you will penetrate the innermost secrets of art; you will find embellishments of such intricacy, such a wealth of knots and interlacing links that you might believe it was the work of an angel rather than a human being.”  Giraldus Cambrensis, 13th century scholar

The Book of Kells, Christ Enthroned. Image from the National Museum of Ireland and published on Wikimedia.

page 309 “Text from John’s Gospel”
written in Insular majuscule by the scribe known as “Hand B”

page 200 “Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus”

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How a horse helped animation

Before today’s lecture I must admit I under-valued the history of Animation – taking modern technology for granted. Growing up with classics such as Toy Story (pixel) and the lion king (Disney), even as a child, often asked my father – How do they make cartoons? How do they make them move? As I have grown older and studied Art and Design for several years, I have gained a certain level of understanding, yet still not explored the beginnings and what advances where made from as early as 2000 bc.

What really grabbed my attention was the groundbreaking experiment carried out by Photographer Edweard Muybridge. He was commissioned $25,000 by ex governor Leland Stanley to use his skills in photography to prove whether or not, a horse lifts all four feet from the ground at anytime when running? This may sound like a waste of money to settle an age old debate, however the outcome proved to be the foundation to animation and stop motion as we see it today.

In order for this to be achieved Muybridge created a device which consisted of 24 separate cameras, which captured each motion seconds apart. This was never performed before, the results where astonishing! People still did not believe Muybridge and his claims, so he used huge projection for the gathering sceptics to prove it. In order to project a moving image, he invented a piece of equipment called a Zoopraxiscope. This projected images from rotating glass discs rapidly, creating a impression motion. It was only then people believed. After this triumph, Muybridge advanced in his studies towards human motion. Laying further foundations for today’s amazing cinematography and animation.

Edweard Muybridge
Galloping Horse 1878

 

Of course his experimentations were vital, but just as important, if not more so was his inventions and advancements in technology. Muybridge’ work has not only been responsible for cinema as we see it today, but also other medium such as CGI and computer gaming. The invaluable knowledge of human and animal movement and form provided by Muybridge has helped create an exciting world of entertainment.

Summer Project : De Stijl

During the summer I was set a brief in which I had to research my chosen discipline (Graphic Design) and identify one particular individual, group or movement that has had a significant impact on the development of my discipline.

At a time of world disorder, political conflict and economic collapse, a new movement was born in the neutral Netherlands named “De Stijl”. The Early decades of the 20th century Europe where testing times, with political upheaval – most notably WW1 (1914) and the Russian Revolution (1917). This played a major part in the transformation and advancements in Art movements throughout Europe.

The movement is widely regarded as one of the keys to modernism. This group of like-minded individuals consisted of a variety of artists which included painters, architects, furniture designers and graphic designers. In 1917 Theo Van Doesburg founded the publication “De Stijl”, in an effort to present their ideas and concepts to a wider audience.

De Stijl publication front cover, Vilmos Huszar, 1917
letterpress on paper, Collection Haags Gemeente Museum

The groups earlier work, especially by painter Piet Mondrian, was heavily influenced by that of French Cubists several years before the war. The Dutch designers ambition was to create a feeling of harmony through the simplification of form, colour and line – whether it be a piece of furniture, painting, poster or architecture.

In 1924 Gerrit Rietveld was given the perfect opportunity to put into practice what ‘de Stijl” symbolised. He was commissioned by Truus Shroder-Shrader to design the interior and exterior of her new home. He considered many aspects such as composition, structure and spatial awareness – while applying the “De Stijl” characteristics such as flat geometric shapes, directional lines and limited colour palette (red,yellow,blue). His designs where not only aesthetically pleasing but where also efficient in their functionality. This was seen by many as a break through in modern Architecture in  20th century.

Gerrit Rietveld, The Shroder House, 1924

Gerrit Rietveld, The Shroder House, 1924

Gerrit Rietveld, Interior of "The Shroder House", 1924

Gerrit Rietveld, Interior of “The Shroder House”, 1924

Gerrit Rietveld, Interior of "The Shroder House", 1924

Gerrit Rietveld, Interior of “The Shroder House”, 1924

Unlike the many movements which arose from the birth modernism, De Stijl is one of few that still has a major influence over today’s world – Whether it be through Architecture, Furniture, Fashion, Painting, poster or album design. Many of the groups revolutionary creations are still recognised today as defining moments in the modernist movement. Many of today’s artists and designers are inspired by the simplicity of shape, line and colour.

A perfect example from the new 21st century could possibly be the American Band White Stripes cover design for album named “De Stijl”. Released in 2000, it was the bands second studio recorded album, seen as a cult classic among fans. Front man Jack White had been a “De Stijl” enthusiast for many years, dedicating the album to furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld. The front cover screams Rietveld’ 1924 design “The Schroder House” with the use of geometric shapes, limited colour palette (red, black and white) and directional lines. The minimalist design mirrors the simplicity of the bands mix of Blues and Punk genres throughout the album. The album cover and contents include work from Gerrit Rietveld, Vilmos Huszár and Theo Van Doesburg.

Even if the goal of achieving beauty from simplicity is aesthetically less exciting, it may force the mind to acknowledge the simple components that make the complicated beautiful.

Jack White – The White Stripes(2000)

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000

The White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000