‘The Eye Wandering the Ceiling – Ornament and the New Brutalism’

Professor Mark Crinson
(University of Manchester)

Wednesday 25 November, 4:10 pm
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre


‘The ceiling was a neutralised zone under modernism. If ornament was a crime it would never practice its dubious business in the hygienic light-filled spaces above our heads. And if ‘papering over’ was to hide the shameful, then not to paper was to show there was nothing to hide. So if we raise our eyes to the ceiling in a modernist building it is only because we might think the sky-god had come into the room. The ceiling, however, was reconceived by New Brutalists, both as part of the topology of rooms and as a parafoveal zone within space perception. Thus it was explored in some major works (Patio and Pavilion, Parallel of Life and Art, Just What Is It…), but also in some ‘minor’ ones (like Eduardo Paolozzi’s ceiling paper) that are the focus here. Equivalent to the ‘New Landscape’ of experimental science, the ceiling was ubiquitous yet outside normal vision, contemporary yet seen by New Brutalists as part of a deep history of dwelling. This paper considers how such re-animated ceilings relate to forms of situated aesthetic experience that fascinated New Brutalists – most especially, Anton Ehrenzweig’s ‘gestalt-free’ theories of the psychology of perception, which call upon wallpaper and ceilings as part of their arguments.’

Refreshments served

All Welcome!

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