Openwork or open-work is a term in art history, architecture and related fields for any technique that produces decoration by creating holes, piercings, or gaps that go right through a solid material such as metal, wood, stone, pottery, cloth, leather, or ivory.[2] Such techniques have been very widely used in a great number of cultures.

Openwork basket, English Bow porcelain, c. 1754–1755
A gold bracelet with a pattern and writing created by making holes in the bracelet
Ancient Roman gold bracelet from the Hoxne Hoard. JULIANE is spelled out in opus interrasile openwork.[1]
Intricate jalis from the Sidi Saiyyed mosque in Ahmedabad, India. From the inside

The term is rather flexible, and used both for additive techniques that build up the design, as for example most large features in architecture, and those that take a plain material and make cuts or holes in it. Equally techniques such as casting using moulds create the whole design in a single stage, and are common in openwork. Though much openwork relies for its effect on the viewer seeing right through the object, some pieces place a different material behind the openwork as a background.

Varieties edit

Techniques or styles that normally use openwork include all the family of lace and cutwork types in textiles, including broderie anglaise and many others. Fretwork in wood is used for various types of objects. There has always been great use of openwork in jewellery, not least to save on expensive materials and weight. For example, opus interrasile is a type of decoration used in Ancient Roman and Byzantine jewellery, piercing thin strips of gold with punches.[3] Other techniques used casting with moulds, or built up the design with wire or small strips of metal. Essentially flat objects are straightforward to cast using moulds of clay or other materials, and this technique was known in ancient China since before the Shang Dynasty of c. 1600 to 1046 BC.[4] On a larger scale in metal, wrought iron and cast iron decoration more often than not have involved openwork.

Scythian metalwork, which was typically worn on the person, or at least carried about by wagon, uses openwork heavily,[5] probably partly to save weight. Sukashibori (roughly translating to "see-through work") is the Japanese term covering a number of openwork techniques, which have been very popular in Japanese art.[6]

In ceramics, if objects such as sieves are excluded (openwork bases for these existed in the West from classical times), decorative openwork long remained mainly a feature of East Asian ceramics, with Korean ceramics especially fond of the technique from an early date.[7] Frequently, these ceramics are double walled allowing the solid inner surface to still hold liquid.

There was little use of it in European ceramics before the 18th century, when designs, mostly using lattice panels, were popular in rococo ceramic "baskets", and later in English silver trays. Openwork sections can be made either by cutting into a conventional solid body before firing, or by building up using strips of clay, the latter often used when loose wickerwork is being imitated. In glass openwork is rather less common, but the spectacular Ancient Roman cage cups use it for a decorative outer layer.

Some types of objects naturally suit or even require openwork, which allows a flow of air through screens, censers or incense burners, pomanders,[8] sprinklers, ventilation grilles and panels, and various parts of heating systems. For exterior screens openwork designs allow looking out, but not looking in. For gates and other types of screens, security is required, but visibility may also be wanted.

Collection of mostly double-open work celadon vases including moon jars.

Double-openwork and triple-openwork edit

The terms double-openwork and triple-openwork, also called reticulated, are typically associated with ceramic pieces that are created with two or three walls. Some ceramists will throw a double wall vessel in one shot and then decorate the other wall with openwork. Other ceramists will throw two individual pieces, wait until the clay sets up firmer, and then cut open the larger piece to insert the smaller one. (See External Link for video) This later technique allows the ceramist to decorate the inner ceramic piece before the large piece encases it. Korean Master ceramist Kim Se-yong (ceramist) is especially known for the later technique.[9]

Architecture edit

The secondary spires at Freiburg Minster

In architecture openwork takes many forms, including tracery, balustrades and parapets, as well as screens of many kinds. A variety of screen types especially common in the Islamic world include stone jali and equivalents in wood such as mashrabiya. Belfries and bell towers normally include open or semi-open elements to allow the sound to be heard at distance, and these are often turned to decorative use. In Gothic architecture some entire spires are openwork. The later of the two spires on the West Front of Chartres Cathedral is very largely openwork. As well as stone and wood the range of materials includes brick, which may be used for windows, normally unglazed, and screens. Constructions such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris are also described as openwork. Here an openwork structure was crucial for the engineering, reducing not only weight but wind resistance.[10]

Beginning with the early fourteenth-century spire at Freiburg Minster, in which the pierced stonework was held together by iron cramps, the openwork spire, according to Robert Bork, represents a "radical but logical extension of the Gothic tendency towards skeletal structure."[11] The 18 openwork spires of Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Família in Barcelona represent an outgrowth of this Gothic tendency. Designed and begun by Gaudi in 1884, they remained incomplete into the 21st century.

Gallery edit

Architecture gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ British Museum Ref:1994,0408.29
  2. ^ "Openwork." Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 26, 2015, subscription required. Their article reads, in full: "Any form of decoration that is perforated". OED "Openwork", 1, where all examples cited from earlier than 1894 are hyphenated, though this is now less common than the single word.
  3. ^ Diane Favro, et al. "Rome, ancient, s 5, ii." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 27, 2015, subscription required
  4. ^ Department of Asian Art. "Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)
  5. ^ Timothy Taylor. "Scythian and Sarmatian art." Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 27, 2015, subscription required
  6. ^ Tokyo National Museum (1976). 和英対照日本美術鑑賞の手引(An Aid to the Understanding of Japanese Art). pp. 132/133. (revised edition; 1964 first ed.), p.132/133
  7. ^ Whitfield, Roger (ed), Treasures from Korea: Art Through 5000 Years, p. 68, 1984, British Museum Publications, ISBN 0-7141-1430-8, 9780714114309. Openwork bases and pedestals "became the characteristic and dominant forms in ceramics" in the Gaya confederacy period.
  8. ^ Aftel, mandy, Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent, 2014, Penguin, ISBN 1101614684, 9781101614686, p. 129
  9. ^ Lim, Man-taek (2023-09-07). "MR O Commerce-Mirae Asset Securities hold September Finance & Art Tech Seminar Invitational! 엠알오커머스-미래에셋증권, 9월 금융 & 아트테크 세미나 초대전 개최!". 미디어피아 (in Korean). Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  10. ^ Harriss, Joseph (1975). The Eiffel Tower:Symbol of an Age. London: Paul Elek. p. 63. ISBN 0236400363.
  11. ^ Robert Bork, "Into Thin Air: France, Germany, and the Invention of the Openwork Spire" The Art Bulletin 85.1 (March 2003, pp. 25–53), p 25.
  12. ^ The whole piece, LACMA

External links edit

YouTube video of Master Kim Se-yong creating double-openwork