Melbourne Now ‘Contemporary Jewellery’ @ NGV

19 02 2014

I must admit to being rather ambivalent about this mega-exhibition-event. ‘Melbourne Now‘ is a huge collection of shows and events, staged by National Gallery of Victoria, spread across the two main galleries and many other locations.

Why haven’t I been overwhelmingly excited (like many others it seems)? Perhaps it’s just me, but I found the exhibition website difficult to navigate and frankly confusing. It felt awkward to get a handle on all that was happening (I’ve used the word ‘bamboozled’ more than once when discussing it). Looking at the website this week though it feels less tricksy; perhaps it has evolved over the length of the exhibition.

Eventually I found my way to the ‘Contemporary Jewellery‘ exhibition.

on the landing of floor 3 of NGV international

on the landing of floor 3 of NGV international; not sure why some of the lighting looks yellow (my camera isn’t very fancy to figure such things out)

Exhibition media: “Melbourne is recognised as a leading centre for the production of contemporary jewellery. Presented via a mild steel armature designed by Melbourne architecture firm Muir Mendes, this installation presents diverse technical, material and conceptual approaches to jewellery, including millennia-old craft traditions and innovative new methods.

Am I being especially sensitive to be a little uncertain about the show being on the landing? It’s a good use of the space sure, a high traffic area and therefore providing good exposure; though it’s not exactly high status … or is it in fact the highest status, with not being hidden in a room? Well, now I’m just unsure about it.
The cases are sleek though; I liked them.

melbnow_06

Meredith Turnbull, Stephen Gallagher, Phoebe Porter

Participating artists (reverse-alphabetical by surname, as per Melbourne Now listing):

  • Meredith Turnbull, Blanche Tilden
  • Lousje Skala
  • Emma Price, Phoebe Porter, Nicole Polentas, Tiffany Parbs
  • David Neale
  • Vicki Mason, Sally Marsland, Carlier Makigawa
  • Manon van Kouswijk
  • Marian Hosking, Kirsten Haydon, Jo Hawley
  • Allona Goren, Stephen Gallagher
  • Maureen Faye-Chauhan
  • Mark Edgoose
  • Bin Dixon-Ward
  • Nicholas Bastin, Roseanne Bartley, Robert Baines

There are links for each of the artists on the exhibition page.

For me the most outstanding object was by Robert Baines (below) – the colouring and construction are a progression from recent work, and I love that it’s new and I haven’t seen it before. It’s a crazy kind of coral growth in purples and pinks and silvery-whites and gold. Outrageous and fabulous.
I would like to take it home with me … anyone want to donate it to my place?

Robert Baines

Robert Baines

It isn’t a simple matter to just list the other pieces I liked, for there were many indeed. That said though, Meredith Turnbull’s work is stunning and certainly worth mentioning.

In an adjacent room Meredith has also created a space and materials for children to create their own neckpieces and add to the wall display. This was a total delight and a wonderful way to bring the little ones into the art and making world.

neckpieces on display

neckpieces on display

It’s worth exploring the other rooms on the same floor.
I thought the collection of Prue Venables‘s ‘Tea Strainers‘ were beautiful.
And the watercolour faces of Sangeeta Sandrasegar were evocative and thoughtful (VettiLiveinNorthcote showcases this work too).

I did look about on the other floors, though am sad to report that nothing there took my heart or mind. I’m kind of disappointed, as I was hoping to be swept away and amazed. Perhaps though it was just my frame of mind on the day…

Mark Holsworth of Black Mark blog wrote about it; and I especially liked his connection of the event branding colour to the ‘Yellow Peril’.

Marcus Banyan, of ArtBlart blog, has written at length also (part1, part2); I agree with his overview and particularly responded to his summary on the first post.

Melbourne Now‘ is at NGV and other locations until 23rd March 2014.

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Update (a few hours after initial publication): Since writing the above I’ve been wondering – does anyone know how the artists were selected to be part of this exhibition? I’m fairly certain it wasn’t by open submission or application; perhaps invitation or curator selection or gallery recommendation?

Of the 23 makers, there are two emerging (early career) artists only a few years out of university. Many of the artists are probably best described as early or mid-career; and quite a number are established.

It could be suggested that a ‘now‘ exhibition would do well to include more work from the newer makers or even from students (or more experimental individuals). That said though, it must be acknowledged that the strength of the Melbourne jewellery community is its diversity and support across ‘experience’ depth, so including all levels is perfectly reasonable.

Looking at the artist biographies, it looks like there aren’t any who have not undertaken formal education – even though the text on the wall mentions the richness of the community including self-taught makers.

Still much to think about.

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Update (21st February): Marcus’s text I mention above is worth reproducing here for your reading enjoyment (with author permission): “As with any group exhibition there are highs and lows, successes and failures. Totally over this fad for participatory art spread throughout the galleries. Too much deconstructed/performance/collective design art that takes the viewer nowhere. Good effort by the NGV but the curators were, in some cases, far too clever for their own (and the exhibitions), good. 7/10“.

Also worth reading is the review that Marcus also quotes: that in the Sydney Morning Herald – it’s pretty scathing by my reading.

One of my favourite statements: “… the exhibition is an act of metropolitan navel-gazing on a scale inconceivable in any other Australian capital. The catalogue is filled with references to Melbourne’s global status and international sophistication, but this event is insular and tribal almost by definition.”

Ouch.

Thankfully I knew my interest (energy and attention) limitations and only wanted to look at the one aspect of the whole show (for which I am unashamed) – for just reading about the whole shebang makes me reel and feel like I’m drowning (and we come back to my initial impression of the bamboozle).

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20 02 2014
Vetti

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Melbourne Now, and am rather confused about how ‘Now’ was defined by the curators. Thanks for linking to my Sangeeta Sandrasegar post.




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