Iskandar Jalil : Kembara Tanah Liat (Clay Travels)


From most of Iskandar Jalil’s other works in the exhibition that demonstrated Wabi Sabi or ‘Communicating with clay’, it is clear that nature or the role of chance plays a significant part in his works.

This work of his especially got my attention because unlike his other works which explored the nature of the material (such as clay being used to form a biscuit tin box) or the nature of mistakes and imperfections, in this work, it is literally nature (plants and roots), infusing with a handmade product (his pots) to create something altogether new.

This stunning image paired with the story behind the work made me fall in love with it even more. After asking the guide there, I learned that a cat urinated on the plant and hence he left it alone after that and then this was the result eventually. Roots of the plant, which managed to survive the harmful liquid, grew out of the bottom pot and twirled itself onto the pot on the top, creating a new texture and depth to the presentation of the pots.

It also explores its functionality with its form, as although it is in a magnificent form, Jalil uses the outgrown roots to hang his caps, hence fulfilling it as a form with function.


I absolutely admire the thought behind his works, and “by chance” process that takes over his work, in this case, the cat and the plant.

Giovanni Pintori (1912 -1999)


Pintori is an Italian graphic designer known mostly for his advertising work with Olivetti. Olivetti is an Italian engineer, politician and industrialist whose entrepreneurial activity thrived on the idea that profit should be reinvested for the benefits of the whole society.

Pintori left his home in Sardinia in 1930, the year he won a scholarship that allowed him to attend the course for advertising graphics directed by Nizzoli and Persico at the ISIA in Monza. As soon as he graduated in 1936, he was asked to join Olivetti, beginning a dazzling professional and artistic career that would make him one of Italy’s best-known designers around the world.

He one of the best known, widely admired and respected Italian designers worldwide. The winner of sought-after international awards, he designed impressive works that created the Olivetti image and were an emblematic reference in the history of 20th-century design.

Exhibitions & Awards

He was awarded the Palma d’Oro for advertising (1950), became a partner of the AGI and exhibited his work at MoMA in New York (1952) and at the Louvre in Paris (1955), received the AIGA Certificate of Excellence (1955) and a gold medal at the Fiera di Milano (1956), and received the Grand Prize at the Milan Triennale (1957) and the Certificate of Merit from the Art Directors Club of New York (1964). His works have been published in books and magazines around the world, capturing attention in Japan, which in 1967, dedicated a large solo exhibition to him in Tokyo. That same year, he decided to leave Olivetti due to difficult relations with the new management that took over after Adriano passed away. He opened his own studio in Milan and began working freelance. He continued working with Olivetti, but also various other Milanese companies like Pirelli, Sirti, Ambrosetti and Gabbianelli. In 1981, the Fondazione Corrente in Milan dedicated an exhibit to his painting activities. For three years, until 1983, he worked with Merzario to create an incredible advertising campaign. In 1990, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Italian Art Directors Club. Pintori died in Milan on 15 November 1999.

Founded as a typewriter manufacturing company by Camillo Olivetti in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, Olivetti is considered one of the leading manufacturers of the mid-20th Century. Throughout its history the company has worked with the likes of Le Corbusier, Milton Glaser and Ettore Sottsass. This exhibition presents photographs, films and ephemera relating to Olivetti’s graphic and spatial design, as well as architecture.

His Works

01 //

giovanni_pintori-0020-ad_olivetti_studio_42Giovanni Pintori, Ad for the Studio 42 (1939)

02 //

w1siziisiji0mzqixsxbinailcjjb252zxj0iiwilxjlc2l6zsaxmjgwedeyodbcdtawm2uixv0Olivetti Elettrosumma 22 , 1962 Medium, Photolithograph

03 //

weblettera_22Olivetti Lettera 22 1953 Medium Lithograph

04 // “Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function” – Exhibition at ICA, London (July 2016)

A display of photographs, films and ephemera relating to Olivetti, one of the 20th century’s leading manufacturers of typewriters and early computers.

Founded as a typewriter manufacturing company by Camillo Olivetti in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, Olivetti is considered one of the leading manufacturers of the mid-20th century. Recognising the importance of design over pure functionalism, a concept largely owed to his son, Adriano Olivetti, the company

produced some of the most iconic hand-typing devices and early computers of the 20th century: from the Lettera 22 (1950) and Valentine (1969) typewriters, to the Elea 9003 (1959), Italy’s first computer, and the Programma 101 (1965), the first commercially produced desktop computer.

This display presents photographs, films and ephemera relating to Olivetti’s graphic and spatial design, as well as architecture. Focusing largely on the industrial boom of the post-war era, the display will cover a key period in Olivetti’s history, a time which saw the creation of the iconic Valentine typewriter and the company’s increasing move towards computer technologies.

05 //


On the left hand sife the Olivetti Tetractys poster, made by Giovanni Pintori in 1956. On the right, the poster of The Guardian, made by Wieden Kennedy in 2007. Is this just a tribute? Surely it is strange that they didn’t quote Pintori during the Ad Campaign.


SFMOMA Exhibition 2010 – Joseph Becker on Giovanni Pintori and Olivetti


A Beautiful Video Tribute to Giovanni Pintori

Recommended Book

Posters: Fifty artist and designers analyze their approach, their methods, and their solutions to poster design and poster advertising by W H Allner


Includes work by Walter Allner, Rudi Bass, Herbert Bayer, Lester Beall, WillBurtin, Gene Federico, Kenneth D. Haak,Gyorgy Kepes, George krikorian, Leo Lionni, Hans Moller, Josef Muller-Brockmann, Jacques Nathan, Celestino Piatti, Giovanni Pintori (for Olivetti), Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg,Ladislav Sutnar, Bradbury Thompson, Rafael Tufino and many others.


“Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function” – Exhibition at ICA, London (25 May 2016 – 17 Jul 2016)


Olivetti Studio 42

Before, During and After Jules Cheret

For this post, I would be looking into the representation of women in print (posters, newsprint, etc). As Jules Cheret (1836-1933), the father of modern poster may be considered as the man to change the perspective of how women were viewed and displayed in print and posters, I would like to categorise this post into three segments:

(01). Before Cheret,  (02).Cheret  (03). After Cheret


01/ Before Jules Cheret

When art nouveau came into Europe, it was glaringly obvious that its art representation in posters had several influences from Japanese wood block prints. Ukiyo-e, meaning pictures of the floating world, was an art movement of Japan’s Tokugawa period (1603-1867). The artists in this period embraced the woodblock print. One such artist was Hishikawa Moronbu (1618-94), who was known as the first master of Ukiyo-e print. And perhaps we have him to partially thank for all the beautiful works of art that followed, in Europe and then spreading to America. As the technique of woodblock printing was slightly tedious and technical, the choice of colours and lines and patterns were very important. And only until the last colour of paint is applied can you properly see the formation of the entire work. All of these added to its beauty. However, as the focus should be on the representation of women, I shall tear myself away from the aesthetical beauty of this woodblock prints and solely focus that.

Women were seen to be demure, gentle, having their head reclined, soft demeanor, and in some wood block prints, involved in manual labour. But rarely were they seen to be smiling, doing something spontaneous or appearing more expressive. Even in the erotic versions, the men appeared to be the one in control, with stronger body language and movements. Although Japanese wood block prints are capable of capturing a slice of time, presenting something that is in the moment, the women were portrayed as being stiff (such as Hokusai Gashiki 1819, Kitagawa Utamaro, portrait of a courtesan, late 1700s.). Yes, she does appear tall and graceful but also looking down at the ground, and looking almost still. However, this is not a negative incline towards the way women were perceived in art in japan at that time. This is purely observational. This is because it could also be credited that the women in Japan at that time were indeed presenting themselves as very gentle and soft creatures. So for that period, it could be said that it was an honest presentation. Hence, this is purely observational, of how women are represented in prints.


02a / Jules Cheret

Firstly, a huge gratitude should be placed upon the demolishment of the French law concerning freedom of the press. This allowed for the exposure of Jules Cheret’s works and its safe to see we are all thankful for that. He was “convinced that pictorial lithographic posters would replace the typographic letterpress posters that filled the urban environment”. He changed and revolutionized the perspective of women. A wonderful example would be his Elysee Montmarte Ball Masque Poster, 1896. The women were seen to be carefree, graceful, and spontaneous and in this poster design, it can be seen that the woman is dancing with the same energy as the man. His representation of women, Caters as they were nicknamed later did not appear rigid. In fact, they were candid and in the moment. This is similar to Ando Hiroshiges’ Evening Squall At The Great Bridge Near Atake 1856-59 where “a moment in time is preserved as a transient human event”. However, unlike most woodblock prints, the colours in Cheret’s posters were very vibrant. This could be perhaps to match the spontaneous energy of the women.


02b/ Slightly after but during Jules Cheret

“In England, the art nouveau movement was primarily concerned with graphic design and illustration rather than architectural and product design”. And perhaps, in my opinion, Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) is one of the best in illustration and creating new forms of design. In most of his well renowned works, women were displayed in black and white silhouettes (silhouettes, which is a common factor in woodblock prints. The use of strokes was clean and clear. Women appeared to be delicate and elongated. They have a slight impression of gentleness, however it was not as demure as the versions of Japanese prints. Their facial expressions were not bright and merry as Charet’s works but their body language were subtle yet loud. This for instance can be seen in the seductive language between two women (Morte d Arthur’ full illustration 1893) or their exposed garments, such as in the illustration for Oscar Wilde’s Salome 1894.


03/ After Jules Cheret

Here, I will explore what the future of women representation may be. In Alphone Mucha’s (1860-1939) works, women had a realistic form, such as in terms of their faces and figures but there was an emphasis on organic shapes, creating something closer to mystical and indulging in the whiplash effect. Due to that, the women had a “archetypal sense of unreality. Exotic, sensuous, yet maiden like. Expresses no specific age, nationality or historical period.”

This I believe needs to be delivered through the works in the future as well. Jules Charet began the journey of empowering women through his poster designs and I hope that the works of the future follows this dream to continue to uplift and liberate. From the representation of Charets to Beardsley’s erotic and wild presentation of women to Mucha’s mystical and sensuous representation, what is next?

Perhaps formless versions of women? This is in close relation to Will Bradley’s Poster for The Cheap Book, 1895. Apart from the face of the women, their silhouette and body figure is formless. It is organic and fluid. And with the gender segregation becoming more and more fluid, perhaps this is the next step to gender equality and liberation? Posters as this and Henri Van De Velde’s Poster for Tropon food concentrate 1899, the focus of the posters are not very clearly displayed. They are subtle and need to be “dug” out. These are thought provoking posters. And why not have a future with more posters like these, right?

 Right now popular works with women representation are explicit, enhancing the female body and sexuality. (Almost similar to Beardsley’s works but less subtle) These works are unafraid and unapologetic. This is an attitude I hope to see in the future of posters, but perhaps with a slight twist to it?

If formlessness is too much of a stretch for the future, I at least hope that the works of the future representing women would be similar to Charles Rennie Mackinstosh poster for the Scottish Musical review 1896. (Rectilinear art nouveau). They are tall and elongated women. Almost like they are standing in a pedestal and the viewers are looking at them from a lower height. Looking up at them. It is empowering. And we need for of that. Powerful, liberated women of the future.





Morris, the English Nesting Doll

At the end of a three-hour lecture about William Morris, I was overcome by two feelings:

(01). Complete awe and admiration at Morris’s immense talents (02). Utter shame and self loathe (I believe this is self-explanatory)

And as I dwelled more into Morris’s life, his works and him as a super-artist (similar to super human but way cooler), I began to realise that Morris was a man of so many things and for me to understand him and his works better, I needed to peel off his several layers one by one. And so with that, William Morris transformed into a nesting doll in my mind. And as time is of essence and as I do not want to cause anyone to come with violent rage at reading an extremely lengthy essay, I have concise the many layers of William Morris to five main layers.

First Layer / Impression of William Morris

I have started to think of him as more than a human. A machine or even a humanoid, perhaps? Likening Morris to a machine obviously began as a way to justify my inadequacy in the field of arts and craft as compared to him. But the more I think of it; William Morris is truly one of a kind. I mean I can barely manage my two regular (mediocre) hands to complete this essay but Morris, oh Morris, he was a man with many hands. He is like the Kali (Hindu goddess) of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris lived and breathed art. He was a poet, artist, philosopher and typographer. He was a man of many skills, and although the saying goes as “jack of all trades and master of none”, I would like to differ and say that Morris is a master of all trades.

Second Layer / Beauty versus Effectiveness

 This is a layer that highlights Morris’s flaw. Yes there are arguments that say that Morris work is only aesthetically pleasing and has no other use. This may appear to be a Dada perspective but in general, the summary of the debate is that although Morris work, particularly his books showcases the intricacy of the patterns and illustration, the overall appearance is too busy which makes the content- the words, to become less significant, further fueled by his choice of typography which makes it harder to read. Thus making the effectiveness of a book as a tool to share and spread knowledge ineffective, in the case of Morris’s works.

Yes, it is true that aside from the beyond beautiful books that he created, he also dwelled in furniture making, which any layman would agree that  it is a functional work. However, the “effectiveness” I am referring to is once again focused on the works capability to spread its wings beyond the creator’s hands to the hands of many; the receivers.

Because he thrived for his works not to be cheap, vulgar, unrefined and distasteful, this meant creating a work worthy enough to put on a pedestal. A pedestal so high up that the only ones who could reach his works were the ones who could afford; the ones who wore heels or had the ability to at least purchase a ladder to receive the goodness of his works. It was out of a reach for the masses of simple laymen.

Third Layer / Man versus Machine

Is William Morris a man or a machine? This is a question that will probably linger in my head for a long time to come. I began my essay by likening him to a machine (layer one). He has definitely proved himself to be the man who makes everything out of scratch from the paint he uses, to the contents of his book (collaborating with illustrators ofcause) and even binding the book himself. He literally starts and finishes a book. His mind and hands seem to be working at a hyper intense speed, so uncommon to a regular human. And this may highly only relate to me, but we can all agree that Morris stretches the limitations of a human’s capacity and capability. But he was still only using his ability as a human (regardless of how magnificent they were).

Having said that, although this is how Morris began his mark in the Arts and Crafts Movement, he eventually moved to forming his own printing press in 1891. Does this mean that Morris eventually went against his views about mass production? Yes and No. But mostly no, because unlike cheap mass production, it was a press focused of printing high quality book. Yes, it was a printing press that produced more than one copy of the same book but it was done at such a high quality that meant costing more and time spent on it was higher. The supply produced in the press was low. This also meant that the price of the books, unlike a regular mass production, would be costly. Therefore yes, William Morris, at the later stages of his career did blur the line between a man or a machine as he tried to infuse both the elements together. I emphasis on using the word try as this plan eventually did not work out too well as the press only survived for six years before finally shutting down.

Forth Layer / Value of His Work in Today’s Context

With the power and influence of the Internet, there is almost nothing in the today’s world that is out of our reach. That includes the knowledge and content of William Morris and his works. We can receive almost everything about his works digitally now. However, is that really the same as having the ability to hold and touch and get real up close to a book that was hand made by the one and only William Morris? No, nothing could come close to that experience. With the digital world available for everyone and anyone, the value of owning a tangible copy of an original or a copy that has only a few duplicates is like owning your very own sorcerer’s stone. It gives you life. You feel infinite. Morris’s work, in today’s context, is an even more rare procession, a collectible, than it ever was in the olden times. And it is also a reminder that, technology still has its limitations (such as the 5cm metal typeface), while the creativity and ability of a human mind is limitless. William Morris is a reminder that when we think creativity is scarce, all we have to do is peek behind the one of his intricate floral wallpapers and there awaits a world of wonder.

Fifth Layer / Personal Thoughts

I chose not to explore the personal life of this revolutionary man because he is more than a plump man with curly hair and an unhappy wife. However, with the assumption that everyone reading this is probably aware of the personal life of Morris, I have short letter to him that I’d like to share:

Dear William,

You were able to see the beauty in everything and everyone except yourself. I wish you did though. Because then, you would have surrounded yourself with a woman who could love you back and a friend who understood the value of friendship. I wish you had put yourself in a greater pedestal, just the way you did for the arts and crafts.

(and when he gets light headed from reading that)

Also, if it wasn’t for easily available mass-produced books, which eventually evolved to computers, technology and the Internet, we may have never learnt about you, and that would have been really unfortunate. I would not have been able to ogle at your handsome face at the computer screen, Morris. So ease up a little on the idea of mass production. With mass production comes mass in knowledge and knowledge is usually a good thing. So, you need to be a little more forgiving towards the concept of mass production ok? (But I still adore you).

Regards, Hemani

(I know you’re an avid collector of new skills and talents, but don’t try to acquire the skill to pronounce my name. Just don’t.)