We are not beyond hope of recovery, though. The need to ornament,
though stifled by the still lingering effects of materialistic life-style, is still
evident, although we have become consumers rather than creators of this as well as other
The form language, the grammar and system of primitive art
is still accessible. We shall look at the form-language in due course, but we have to
re-evaluate the meaning of decoration first. We must appreciate that of all forms of
symbolic thinking, primitive ornament is the most eloquent, pure and effective means of
expression and participation in the realm of symbol.
Looking at the contexts in which primitive ornament has flourished, we
see that a deeper value is implied than we have come to associate with the art of
decoration, for in fact, we no longer consider pattern to be significant at all, nor even
art as we think of it.
A different value system applies to truly primitive art whereby object
or artifact is ritually decorated, endowed with the power to awaken in the viewer a sense
of cosmic connection, and deeper still, a sense of that which gives rise to the universe
through the agency of patterns, according to which matter itself is structured, the
principle of order underlying the cosmos.
Take the word "adornment", as to deck-out a Christmas tree
with decorations. A tree without lights is just a tree. Decked-out, it is a
Christmas tree. The ornament enhances the tree so that it becomes more than a tree. It
becomes a symbol.