Exhibition celebrating the pleasures of pattern

Published: 26 October 2018 at 10:00

Artist's impression of how the Ruskin Gallery exhibition will look

New work by Dutch graphic designer forms centrepiece of Anglia Ruskin exhibition

An exhibition encouraging visitors to find pleasure in pattern will go on display at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge from Thursday, 1 November.

Decriminalising Ornament: The Pleasures of Pattern, which runs in the Ruskin Gallery until 26 November, is bringing together some of the best and most exciting exponents of pattern-based art and design to celebrate the joy of ornament – in stark contrast to the austere geometry and plain surfaces that dominated 20th century design. 

The exhibition features work by 14 different artists, demonstrating how pattern and ornament enhances our visual world.  As well as books, illustration and prints, it features a 26m long knitted typographic banner.  And central to the exhibition is a specially commissioned piece by celebrated Dutch graphic designer Hansje van Halem.

Van Halem’s design is inspired by endpapers, which are the patterned pages traditionally placed inside the front and back covers of high quality books. These not only serve to strengthen the book, but have become a playful and aesthetic introduction to the content inside.

Rare antiquarian endpapers from the collection of master printer and publisher Jan de Jong inspired Van Halem to create a pattern which presents itself in many guises, from wallpaper, where the pattern engages with other work, through to an ‘Inner Sanctum’, where both the original endpapers and a range of visual translations revealing the design process, are placed at its centre.

Dr Nanette Hoogslag, course leader for Illustration and Animation at Anglia Ruskin University and the organiser of the exhibition, said: 


“With the recent exhibition of Enid Marx in the House of Illustration, a retrospective of Annie Albers in the Tate and the popularity of the clothing range with William Morris patterns at H&M, there is clearly a renewed interest in pattern, ornament and the visual pleasures they bring. 

“The unique collaboration between Hansje van Halem and Jan de Jong has been the main driver of the new wave of patterning and ornamentation within graphic design in the Netherlands.  This new exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery celebrates the aesthetic power of complex visual patterns.”


This exhibition is linked to a research conference on 17-18 November that explores the nature of pattern and ornament within the context of illustration, printing and publishing.  Decriminalising Ornament: The Pleasures of Pattern runs from 1-26 November at the Ruskin Gallery on Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus, and is free to attend.