Aug 14

After 10 years of research, 12 workshops in Poland, hundreds of working hands, and what seemed like millions of hours of mixing woad (and other colors..), WE FINISHED THE GWOZDZIEC CEILING PAINTING EXACTLY ON SCHEDULE!!

After 10 years of research, 12 workshops in Poland, hundreds of working hands, and what seemed like millions of hours of mixing woad (and other colors..), WE FINISHED THE GWOZDZIEC CEILING PAINTING EXACTLY ON SCHEDULE!!

We went far and fast!

We went far and fast!

Aug 11

[video]

Aug 09

The Lantern

What we refer to as the lantern is the crowning cupola of the Gwozdzeic synagogue ceiling where the baroque interior curvature of the ceiling resolves at its highest point. Added in the early 1700’s, to a barrel vaulted ceiling, it was part of a renovation that inspired a stylistic trend that informed wooden synagogue architecture across the entirety of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (Hubka  pg. 57). Now in our final workshop in Wroclaw it remains as the last unfinished element in our ceiling.

Above: Images and studies of the lanterns structure and interior painting.

Those familiar with Ottoman and Middle Eastern art and imagery might find the designs in the lantern surprising. The main design feature, which we refer to as the arabesque, has Ottoman roots.  Below you can see a similar design in the repeating sections of an Ottoman tent as well as a similar design feature on wall tiles in the Topkapi palace in Istanbul.  Polish Jews were not isolated.  Communities such as Gwozdziec maintained cultural connections with Sephardic Jewish communities and were familiar with popular Ottoman motifs.  The specific tent pictured below would have also been well known to Poles because of its existence as a symbol of Polish unity and nationalism after Poles captured it in Vienna from invading Turkish forces in 1683 (Hubka pg.37).

 

Above: Ottoman tent captured in Vienna.

Above: Breier’s color study of the lantern next to tiles from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul


Hubka, Thomas C. Resplendent Synagogue.  Brandeis University Press. Lebanon NH. 2003

Aug 06

[video]

Aug 05

A Book Recommendation: Go for Gombrich!


Sense of Order. A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (1979) is a book by E.H. Gombrich, published after he presented his investigations at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as part of a programme called Wrightsman Lectures. Gombrich was an Austrian art historian, probably one of the most significant figures of this discipline in 20th Century Europe. This book is a very broad and complex analysis of human’s natural tendency to search for regularity within disordered surroundings and, as a consequence, eagerness to create patterns, which later become ornaments. Gombrich performs a profound analysis focusing on aesthetic preferences present in various cultures, general aspects of the subconscious, physical perception and also the influence of constant interaction of nature and civilization on the forms of art.

Decorative art has existed since always but has not always been considered important. Centuries have passed before it was finally noticed not only as a valuable source of aesthetic heritage but also as a universe of symbols. Nowadays it is hard to believe that the craftsmanship of ornamental art used to be undervalued,  understood just as the background to something greater. Today ornamental art is thought to be not only a discipline that requires skills of higher level but also deeper understanding of symbols and their meanings.
I recommend this publication by Gombrich to anyone who would like to investigate wider context of decorative art. Author traverses multiple locations, periods and cultures finding common paths that justify our need for organized beauty.

Sense of Order. A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art was published in English by Phaidon Press Ltd, London.

Since I didn’t manage to access an English version of the book, I decided to provide extract taken from polish edition (Universitas, Kraków 2009), translated by myself.

We shall refrain from the temptation of treating overall perception [of decorations] as an act of simply viewing without appropriate intensification of attention. Thanks to the rule of graduated complexity, we are able to absorb much more from the general character of decoration than we can actually analyze and describe. […] The ability and creativity of the decorations’ maker have an impact on more than just our conscious perception. A master of crafts knows from his own experience, that we can feel, without any specific investigations, this extremely significant difference between disorder and  abundance. What is certain is the fact that when confronting all the orders within orders, our tendency to verify regularity without the feeling of losing any part of an infinite and inexhaustible variety, switches on. This process may demand our acceptance of this form of art, which used to be claimed to be of little importance. History shows that some great traditions of ornamental styles cross the borders of pure decoration and are actually able to transform overflow into a whole and undefined meaning- into a mystery.


-Post by Olga Micińska, a volunteer from Warsaw who has participated in both the Timber Framing workshop and the final painting workshop here in Wroclaw. Olga graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw with a Masters degree in Sculpture.

Laura with Maria Piechotka at the Gwozdziec Reconstruction opening in Warsaw.

Laura with Maria Piechotka at the Gwozdziec Reconstruction opening in Warsaw.

Aug 03

[video]