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.
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.