‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘ @ Powerhouse Museum

28 10 2014

Jewellery lovers need to see the Powerhouse Museum’s ‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘. It’s astonishing and there are so many pieces from such a breadth of sub-genres.

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Exhibition media: “Jewellery has been made and worn for personal, social and cultural reasons through millennia. Styles, materials and practices have varied across time and place, yet the desire to adorn ourselves has been universal.
Jewellery can influence the way people perceive us, make us more attractive, mark special events or symbolise wealth and status. We make, wear, give, receive, collect and express our identity, individuality and creativity through jewellery. It contributes to our spiritual, cultural and emotional well-being.
A fine possession celebrates the central place of jewellery in our lives, from antiquity to the present-day, through a sumptuous selection of jewellery made, worn and collected in Australia.

The website is excellent and shows selected items from each of the themes in the exhibition.

  • Belief & Magic – the kingfisher feather pieces were utterly gorgeous, and the inclusion of quite a broad group of pre-industrial cultures was great to see
  • Love & Death
  • Nature & Culture
  • Style & Revival
  • Gold & Identity
  • Status & Wealth
  • Men & Adornment
  • Modernity & Change
  • Evolution & Revolution
photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Within the cabinets where were explorations of sub-themes too … materials, identity (I was exceptionally happy to see Nicole Polentas included here), fantasy (and again I was most pleased Claire McArdle is represented here) …

There are a genuinely impressive number of pieces, with many being loaned from private and other collections. My visit made me want to know more about the oft-mentioned ‘Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences’ … which after only a little investigation it became clear was in fact the parent of the Powerhouse. So I have visited them after all!

It surprised me that there were pieces here from the NGV that I’ve not seen exhibited in our own gallery before – including a stunning opal tiara.

I’m sure others have written, and will write, more eloquently about the structure of the exhibition and other such technical matters. I’ll attempt to list them at the bottom of this post as they arise.

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

You can see from the images above that the room was dark. Damn dark. Painted black and only with limited lighting on the items.

What is this about? Have curators recently all made a pact to do this (remember the Incas at NGA earlier this year)? I found the darkness disorienting and exceptionally tiring; it was difficult to refocus my eyes after looking at the underlit cabinets to find my way to the next one. It was genuinely disconcerting and exhausting.

The description cards were also a little disappointing with the names of the makers being almost secondary (an example is below). It is in much smaller text than the headline, which was usually a description like brooch or the title of the work, and even came after the materials listing.

item card

item card

In an ante-room there are two cabinets with work of graduates – which is fabulous. And they were well lit; making the discomfort of the main exhibition viewing all the more obvious. The most outstanding from this group was a three brooch group by Andrea Caliguiri (item card above).

It’s a shame that there isn’t a publication associated with this exhibition. Though I wonder, given many of the pieces are loaned, if there just wasn’t time before the opening. Does anyone know if a publication may be coming? What a magnificent opportunity to document such a group … I hope one is forthcoming. Perhaps a kick-starter project would help? I’d totally donate!

Nature cabinet; photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Nature cabinet; photography under gallery conditions; no flash

All that said, I enjoyed the exhibition and consider it a landmark for jewellery; in fact I mentioned to friend afterwards that I think this is the best gathering of jewellery I’ve ever seen, even better than the V&A (though that could be a little hyperbolic, and it’s only fair to admit that my memory has faded a little on that count).

A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘ is at Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) until 20th September 2015. I may in fact visit again.

Press / Reviews

18th September: Jewellery gone overboard at Powerhouse Museum? Suits you sir (The Age)

20th September: Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge necklace stars in Powerhouse Museum exhibition A Fine Possession (Herald Sun)

28th September: Sim Luttin, A Fine Possession

1st October: A Fine Possession – Rare Gem at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum

1st October: A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity Review

25th October: radio interview: Jewellery expert Anne Schofield (one of the key people involved in this exhibition)

Update (30th October): make sure you watch Powerhouse Museum’s Facebook page – they’re regularly focusing on pieces from the exhibition.





‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘ @ COTA

26 10 2014

Hooowee, I’d forgotten how humid Sydney can feel in Spring; but the sun was out and that always makes me happy.

As planned, I popped into Courtesy of the Artist to see the ‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘.

Exhibition media: “The National Contemporary Jewellery Award was started in 1992 by the Griffith Regional Art Gallery to support the development of the National Contemporary Jewellery Collection.

photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

COTA’s gallery room is a beautiful space.

It was a strange experience though – I think I’ve already seen the pieces (perhaps all; though if not, almost all) online, so seeing them in person wasn’t as much of a thrill as it would be without the prior exposure.

Of course I’m glad I saw them in person – and I really do think that the prevalence of online documentation of exhibitions is completely fabulous (especially for anyone not able to go due to geography or mobility etc) – though this may be something for curators to think about.

I wonder if the ease of seeing pieces online (facebook especially) is taking the edge off the need to visit exhibitions in person? Though I expect that it may also in fact be increasing traffic. Do any gallery staff have a feel for the impact of online photos? As a balance, I would suspect that a few key pieces online would be ideal, with full documentation after the show has closed (oh wait, that’s been the case here, as this is a traveling show!).

Thoughts from more experienced curators, and other exhibition visitors, are most welcome.

photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

Participating artists are:

  • Sun-Woong Bang, Alyra Bartasek, Julie Blyfield, Brendon Collins
  • Emma Fielden, Karin Findeis, Felix Gill, Pennie Jagiello
  • Lauren Joffe, Rebecca Hinwood, Carly Lay, Danielle Mackenzie
  • Vicki Mason, Shan Shan Mok, Courtnee Nichols, Carl Noonan
  • Juliette Pastorok, Felicity Peters, Jessamy Pollock,Phoebe Porter
  • Jana Roman, Bridgette Shepherd, Emily Snadden, Sarah Spackman, Blanche Tilden
photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

Highlights for me were:

  • brooches by Emma Fielen
  • brooches by Jessamy Pollack (whose work I admired in BUDA last year)
  • colourful neckpiece (centre in image above) by Karin Findeis.

National Contemporary Jewellery Award 2014′ is at Courtesy of the Artist (Sydney) until 1st November 2014.

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Update (28th October): It was remiss of me not to link to the Griffith Regional Gallery, where “NCJA is an acquisitive prize sponsored by Griffith City Council and held at Griffith Regional Art Gallery biennially.“. This exhibition showed there 4th – 28th September.

Also, their facebook page is where I saw high quality images of the works.

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Most important exhibition

14 10 2014

With thanks to a heads-up from the inimitable Zoe Brand of Personal Space Project fame, I’m now aware of a Kickstarter project ‘Shows & Tales‘: the AJF (Art Jewelry Forum) raising funds for a publication focusing on exhibitions.

Naturally I want to be a supporter … not the least because jewellery is my thing, but I’m very interested in reading and thinking about the content. I’m deciding between the various supporter levels, and one of them includes the publication on the AJF website of a brief paragraph about your most important exhibition.

I liked this idea so much I thought I’d write it here anyway. Perhaps there will be more than one when I give the idea a bit more time to sink in … but the first that came to mind was: ‘Ad Astra per Aspera‘ in 2003. I wrote the below a few years ago and I’m not sure I can put it any better.

When I moved to Melbourne (to study goldsmithing) the first exhibition I visited was the 2003 RMIT Gold & Silversmithing Graduate exhibition ‘Ad Astra per Aspera‘, which translates to ‘to the stars with difficulty’, at the Melbourne Gold Treasury Museum.

This was a key moment for me – I wandered around the exhibits and felt like I was in the right place; that this was something I not only wanted to do, but felt I was able to do, and it made sense to me and almost felt like home.

 





Svenja John ‘Assembly’ @ Gallery Funaki

11 10 2014

I do like the revamped Gallery Funaki website. You can see many of the pieces in this exhibition online if you aren’t in Melbourne; though it’s certainly worth personally seeing the current exhibition if you can, for Svenja John‘s ‘Assembly‘ is a riot of colour.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

Exhibition media: “In the 20 years since I began working with the polycarbonate MakrofolTM I have developed, bit by bit, my own ‘Jewellery Construction Kit’. In the beginning there were only bone-shaped parts (which I called x-bones), linked together with rings of various sizes to form chains, earrings and bracelets. Eventually more than 10 different basic elements developed from which all the complex jewellery assemblies are plugged together“.

Svenja has a wonderful gift of putting colours together; and the mobiles are whimsical and I think I’d like one in my house.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

To me the neckpieces are the stars of the exhibition. Strangely though I think I love the photographs of them more than the items themselves in person. It’s a strange thing indeed; I’m quite unsettled by the realisation. Perhaps the photographs are taken with some backlight, as the material somehow seems more translucent or even glowing.

Most attractive about these constructions are their allusions to medieval jewellery and Berlin iron work. My favourite is the piece in the middle; unfortunately there isn’t a detailed image of it on the exhibition site, but the colour combination is magnificent – magenta, purples, greys.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

I did take some photographs of the right-hand side of the gallery, but I was a little distracted at the time and it was only when I arrived home that I realised they were all out of focus. Oopsies.

Svenja John ‘Assembly‘ is at Gallery Funaki until 25th October 2014.

Also see: Svenja John ‘X_BRANEN‘ @ Gallery Funaki, August 2009





Bit. Excited.

14 09 2014

Jewellery lovers of Australia – you need to know about this!
Though you probably already do, no doubt
… but just in case…

The Powerhouse Museum (in Sydney) is in the process of installing their upcoming exhibition “A fine possession: jewellery and identity“.

Exhibition media: “Among the rarely seen items on display will be ancient Egyptian scarab jewels, Chinese kingfisher-feather jewels and a magnificent tiara and necklace made from exotic beetles for an English aristocrat. Australian highlights will include gold-rush jewellery, Indigenous necklaces made from pearl shells, a diamond Art Deco brooch in the form of aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith’s legendary ‘Southern Cross’ aircraft and the fabulous ‘Satine’ necklace worn by Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge. A striking selection of contemporary studio jewellery will reveal the imagination and skill of some of the most talented local and international jewellers working at the crossroads of art, craft and design.

For more see the Museum website [above is from here].

The exhibition opens 24th September 2014.

exhibition media; click on image for original source

exhibition media; click on image for original source





Curse the flu

22 08 2014

So I have the flu. I’ve had it all week.
It’s a right pain. And I’m a total sook when I’m unwell.

Worse, it means that I now miss out on seeing ‘Wondernamel 2014‘ and ‘Around The Table‘ at First Site Gallery.

I wish their shows went for longer. Or that they were open for a few hours on a Saturday.
For those of us who work full-time (office hours) it’s nigh on impossible to see them.

First Site has put up some photographs from the opening night of the exhibitions – but they are more focused on people than the objects, and it’s hard to really get a sense for the works.

Oh well, there goes my hope I could vicariously visit the show through the wonder of the internets. Sad.

Did you go? Do you have photographs of the work you’d like to share?





Bin Dixon-Ward ‘Grids’ @ Craft

20 08 2014

Bright colour abounds at Bin Dixon-Ward‘s ‘Grids‘ exhibition at Craft.

'Small City'

‘Small City’

I like that each ring in the above collection has its own stand. On the surface the forms may appear repetitive, but subtle differences are the reward for careful inspection.

Exhibition media: “Bin Dixon-Ward’s exhibition is a playful exploration of the grid as it appears in the urban form.

Grids are everywhere, in the layout of our cities and towns, in land divisions for agriculture and housing, floor plans and building facades; the urban grid has endless translations.  As a fundamental unit of our endeavours to manage and control our environment, we use the grid to protect us, to navigate our way and to mark and control our boundaries.  The grid maintains a structure that is both self-supporting and flexible. Its foundations remain intact even when the surface is altered and eroded through use.

installation

installation

My sense is that the wearable pieces are far more powerful on a body than still and on display.

I am interested in how this technology will impact future creation of adornment – perhaps even self-service jewellery, where a ‘designer’ makes their original design available online and a person can purchase it to have it printed themselves in whatever colour and material they desire.

Bin’s website has some wonderful images of her work. And the exhibition was rapturously written about by the ladies at HandMadeLife (with beautiful photographs).

Bin Dixon-Ward’s ‘Grids‘ is at Craft until 30th August 2014.

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Update (21st August): Bin’s work is featured in one of the glossies – check out Pieces of Eight’s blog.

And the eagle-eyed among you would have spotted that the works list says there are 10 pieces in the ‘Small City‘ collection, but there are only 9 on the table. When I visited I counted and recounted about five times to be sure – then wondered if perhaps one had sold (though it’s exceptionally rare, if not unheard of for a piece to be removed from an exhibition before its finished); then had a sinking feeling that some despicable [swearword] had stolen one. But thankfully, after checking the original photographs from Craft, it seems that there may have always been 9 … just a little typo. Phew.

Bin has also been mentioned in the following previous blog posts:

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