Literature Review on ornamentation of artwork

Literature Review on ornamentation of artwork

Literature Review


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Research shows that ornamentation of artwork adds value as well as, aesthetics; however this is mainly done by decorating the surfaces of the artwork using different motifs. The artwork includes decorating furniture, utensils and clothing. However, there is other ornamentation or artworks which mainly involve the body art. For example, in the past, the use skin was the major canvas for African expression for many years making ornamentation of artwork to become the source of interest for many Kenyans. Artwork ornamentation started gaining a strong foothold in the 1900s and from the anthropological research; it is evident that many cultures across the world are today using different forms of artworks as well as, ornamentation for different reasons (Gair, 2006).

Throughout the history of African culture, anthropologists noted that exploring ethnic motifs as well as, designs from the material culture of the Kenyan ethnic groups and utilizing them in ornamentation has become greater activity to the Kenyans people. Artwork and aesthetics ornamentation in Kenya can be examined in terms of the complexity required for creating and decrypting a work of art. As a result, the government of Kenya has proposed different laws for aesthetic complexity (Thomas, 2002). According to the first law of aesthetic complexity in Kenya, it is noted that too condensed encoding may make a decryption of a work of art impossible and is also perceived to be chaotic by the untrained mind, whereas too regular structures are perceived as monotonous, too orderly and not very stimulating. Thus a necessary condition for an artistic form or design to appear appealing is its complexity to lie within a bracket between monotony and chaos. According to the second law of aesthetic complexity, due to human predisposition, this bracket is invariably based on natural forms; with rather limited plasticity. The third law of aesthetic complexity states that aesthetic complexity trends are dominated by the available resources, and thus also by cost and scarcity.

Several strategies on the other hand have been applied to increase the aesthetic complexity and artistic expression virtual universes. The human mind seems to be able to recognize automation in pattern creation, and often resents too simple schemes. Presently, there are different motifs and designs in Kenyan. The designs include the use of paints, mosaic, fabric decoration, body artwork and many others. Painting in artworks use color pigment such as paints on distinctive surfaces. Painting allows artists to creatively decorate surfaces so as to make then appear like a different image without altering the actual image (Thomas, 2002). For example, “Rock paintings were believed to be the first painted works of art mostly done by the cave people. They painted using their fingers and soft colored clay on rock surfaces following examples of claw marks made by animals. Clearly, then, a well-known ideal source of paint material used on rocks came from colored soils obtained from organic or living matter as well as, inorganic (Baker, 2007).

The study carried out notes that, “red” paints were obtained from “iron oxide, black paints were executed from inorganic compounds such as manganese dioxide, as well as pine carbons. Therefore, the paints used by creative artists to produce painting artworks were also obtained by mixing ground color pigments and they may be added with various types of cohesive substances such as gum to bind them on a planned surface (Harrison, 2001). The various paint pigments have different mixing properties and they require diverse types of binders to transform them into workable tools. Painting is significant because it embellish o an artwork. Painting attaches our daily life to the aesthetics of colors. Conversely, through painting artists attain imitated creative styles to supplement with their attained skills of color use. Painting on the other hand can be used as a medium for sharpening a learner’s logical reasoning (Thomas, 2002).

As well as to discover the life and art of greatest painters as well as past events. Most artisans paint to review and to practice their theoretical knowledge of colors, and during critiques, painting artists acquires shared knowledge about techniques and colors.

MosaicIt is evident that ethnic motifs and designs derived from material culture can as well be utilized in ornamentation. For instance, the ornamentation of pieces of art work is significant in adding the value to the item and improves the quality and aesthetics. As a result, using of motifs that are derived from the material culture of our Kenyan ethnic groups will greatly help in preserving the culture and heritage of different communities (Baker, 2007). However, this can only be done by utilizing the motifs in ornamenting an individual artwork. Today, most Kenyans decorate their ornaments using mosaic. A mosaic is a type of artwork that can be made by arranging small colored pieces of hard materials like glass, stone and tiles to create a beautiful decorative pattern (Thomas, 2002). The history of mosaic art (2008) tells us that “mosaic history goes back some 4,000 years or more, with the use ofterracotta cones pushed point-first into a background to give decorations.” From this we can understand that any hard surface can provide a base for a mosaic artwork so long as it is firm, free from moisture and grease or liquids (Baker, 2007).

According to research, by the eighth century there were pebble pavements with different unstructured decorations of coloured stones used for creating patterns by the Greeks. These mosaic artworks were used for various purposes like making elaborate decorations in worship places especially churches, surfacing roads, house floor, walls, decorative utensils and furniture (Harrison, 2001).

Other creative artists who do mosaic use recycled materials from broken coloured pieces of terracotta carefully selected from earthenware of a kind like glass, pottery as well as tiles. Mosaic artworks are created in different ways, some display shapes of precise geometric patterns, while other are arranged almost randomly to display or show scenes of people and animals. In other words, there is no right or wrong choice for making mosaics artworks (Gair, 2006). This type of motif design has a great impact on contemporary art and the ornamentation skills on the designers and artisans.

Fabric decorationToday, fabric decoration as a type of motifs and designs are currently used for ornamentation in the Kenyan contemporary art. Fabric decoration is the art of embellishing cloth or fabric for pleasant appearances. Other artistic define “fabric design/decoration” as “the patterning of an essentially plain fabric to render it more appealing or to serve a particular purpose.” Hence, the designer of fabric decoration should not only be given the fundamental skills of depicting creative and artistic enhancements on the surface of a fabric for various intended aims, but they can as well learn about altering fabrics by sewing, given that this can also be an approach typically used to decorate fabrics. Other methods of fabric decoration include dyeing, bleaching, starching, waxing, printing and sewing (Harrison, 2001).

In Kenya, the antiquities or ancient past of fabrics starts from tribal people such as the Nilotes, Cushites and Bantus who used bark cloth for clothing, interior decorations, protection from bad weather by covering their naked bodies and very many other purposes (Gair, 2006). It has also been speculated in Kenya that the direct trade relations between the Indians living in Kenya and the people living in Western Kenya has resulted in the cross-cultural transfer of ideas and skills in fabric decoration, which later translated into the patterning of bark-cloth, initially exclusively, for royal usage.” This for many years has presented the value of promoting cross-cultural understanding by the people who used bark cloth. It also led to the discovery of more ways of decorating fabrics, which most Kenyans wear today for distinctive purposes. Literally, some sources suggest that decorated bark cloth existed in other parts of Africa (Baker, 2007).


Baker, G. (2007). The artwork caught by the tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris. London: MIT Press.

Gair, A. (2006). Artist’s manual: a complete guide to painting and drawing materials and techniques. London: Chronicle Books.Harrison, H. (2001). Painting shapes and edges: give depth, clarity and form to your artwork. New York: North Light Books.

Herskovic, M. (2003). American abstract expressionism of the 1950s: an illustrated survey with artists’ statements, artwork and biographies. London: New York School Press.

Thomas, T. (2002). Artwork by Tona Thomas. London: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Sioux Indian Museum and Crafts Center.