I selected to read the book Design as Art by Italian designer Bruno Munari because I wanted to understand further the correlation between art and design.
This book is split into five chapters each with several sub sections. Munari throughout his book discovers and talks us through a range of topics very central to the art world of 1966 Italy. I found this an interesting point that even though the book was written almost 50 years ago, it still very much echoes the art world of today, pointing out many things that still have continual relevance.
Although the book as a whole really captured my interest I took out several phrases that I though resounded in my practice or those that I thought were of interest to me as an artist.
In his preface, Munari looks at how art exhibitions have changed, how it is no longer about canvases, paintings and sculptures but objects made in a range of different materials and methods. He goes on to discuss how art itself has evolved from painters such as Seurat who told stories in his work and then onto the disappearance of narrative and birth of abstraction as proposed by Kandinsky. Mondrian looks at colour and form that is simple and not trying to be anything but what it is and finally paintings with one colour such as those done by Klein. Munari states that artists today are looking to create art that will interest the people of today. Even now this is of high relevance due to the continuous inventions of new technology. The artist is therefore in need of contact with the public in order to entice them into their work. Munari says this is the reason that the traditional artist is becoming the designer and he himself acknowledges this within himself.
In the section, A Living Language, Munari takes an example of a roadsign in the style of Louis XIV. However in this time there was no such thing as roadsigns, they used heraldic symbols. Today this is very different, although we can see a great similarity between the symbol of Louis XIV and a roadsign of today, Munari is right in stating that “Visual Language changes according to the needs of the day”. This is not only relevant to roadsigns even symbolism used in past times still is changed and adapted to meet the needs of todays world. Using today as a starting point we can still imagine that in ten or twenty years the symbols we use today will have been adapted as new inventions are discovered or in the way which our world is constantly changing.
Munari discusses A Language of Signs and Symbols as another small section within the chapter Visual Design. This section appealed to me because of its closing line. Munari states “Will something like this be the international language of the near future?” (in relation to signs and symbols). I found this thought provoking as clearly even in 2015 the language of the signs and symbols does not go much further than it has done in 1966 with roadsigns, meterological signs and electronics. Signs and Symbols as there own way of expression never took off as a way to understand and comprehend. Maybe this would have been a way to have a common language. Would it have ever been possible for it to become existent? An international language was created however there is only a few speakers of it in the world today.
Munari discusses a car as a piece of travelling sculpture. I personally have never thought of a car in such a way but Munari speaks a lot of truth. A car has been designed, painted, built in a certain way that is not like the car next to it. Each has its own individual characteristics either in its design or placed upon it by the user. If cars are a piece of travelling sculpture, could we go as far as to say that a suitcase, a boat or even a rubber ring is? Are we no longer looking at objects but living in a world of sculpture? If this statement is true that how would we define sculpture as an art? Would it be artistic sculpture? But who is to say that a car is not in its own right a work of art? This statement evokes a lot of thought for me and it is something to consider as an artist when creating. It brings us back to the notion of discussing the never-ending question of what actually is art?
In tune with my own personal artwork, Munari discusses the creation of a wallpaper. In general, posters are made to fit within certain dimentions, a certain cadre. In order for a poster to work as an ongoing piece such as Campari’s advertising in the undergrounds in Italy, the left needs to know what the right is doing and the top must know what the bottom is doing. As long as those rules stand true, the poster can be never ending. Munari explains this is the way that wallpaper and material for clothing and furnishings are made.
I really enjoyed discovering Munari’s work and it has been an endless source of discussion and interesting questions for me as an artist. I feel that what Munari says rings true of the world today and what he says has every relevance in our day to day lives. I found the book easy to read and Munari explains his points well and even at times he questions himself in order for us to question ourselves. He has a knowledgable background of art and art history, bringing out for us a range of art and artists for us to explore. He writes in a way that captures us as an audience and makes us want to continue reading his book. Overall this is a very strong reference to the art world of 1966 which resounds with the art world of today.