Julie Blyfield ‘Natural Selection’ @ Gallery Funaki

25 03 2009

Julie Blyfield is an established Adelaide-based contemporary jeweller and silversmith, known especially for referencing natural forms in her jewellery and vessels [for examples of her work see here and here and here and here]. She was an original member of the Gray Street Workshop and has had a book written about her work.

Her new exhibition at Gallery Funaki is called  ‘Natural Selection‘ and has been inspired by time spent in the deserts of South Australia. It is a departure from silver and other metals into using natural materials, informed by her study of the Aboriginal and Pacific artefact collections in storage at the South Australian Museum.

All of the images below were kindly provided by the staff at Gallery Funaki. The photographer is Grant Hancock.


image: Grant Hancock

The above photograph was the main one used in the exhibition media. The top brooch is the most beautiful piece in the show in my opinion, and I particularly like that it shows the metal-working that Julie is celebrated for. This brooch has also been reviewed here.

image: Grant Hancock

image: Grant Hancock

The above image shows some of the brooches from this exhibition.

While I was visiting Gallery Funaki another visitor asked the staff member about the work, and when informed that it was in response to some time spent in the desert he replied that ‘it has that feel about it’. The quandong nuts do have a wrinkled water-deprived appearance and the muted colours of some of the pieces look parched by the sun.

I have to admit though that my reading of the artist statement was that the materials were primary: however all of the natural materials here were painted, which seemed to me to distance them from their raw state. Perhaps the painting was inspired by the painting of the indigenous ornaments during the research stage, and that without knowing this  reference I cannot make that connection. The wood painted black initially deceived me, for they were so perfectly smooth that I actually thought it was plastic until seeing them in context and reading the works list. I was also mistaken in first thinking that some of the smaller cut wood segments were metal tubes (chenier), for they seemed so straight and uniform.

The show included a collection of necklaces, a selection is shown below (images again by Grant Hancock).

natural-selection-008 natural-selection-007

In the most part the necklaces followed a traditional approach of threading items together – here quandong nuts and native wood segments. It may be due to my own ignorance, but the connection between the raw materials and the cotton tape used in a number of the works was unclear to me – perhaps the tape best emulated an indigenous material, perhaps it could be argued that it doesn’t matter and there doesn’t always need to be a connection…

As you can see in the images, there were lots of quandong nuts; after seeing them all employed whole I was desperate to see what they would look like split in half or partially degraded as though by the fire or heat.

In the end, these thoughts are nothing more than my personal opinion: a view seen through my own eyes and an experience coloured by my unique world-filter. The work stands regardless of my opinion of it; the artist always deserves respect, acknowledgment and admiration. None of what I write is intended as a personal criticism, though I do recognise that as artists we hold our work close to our hearts and can feel wounded when it is not heard as we hear it. My intention is not to criticise but to explore and describe my own view.

Go and see the exhibition for yourself; experience your own feelings about it; it is worth seeing.

Natural Selection‘ is at Gallery Funaki until 4th April 2009.



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