thoughts on ‘Unclasped’ @ Hellenic Museum

26 02 2016

I’m terribly disappointed that an intense period of (office) work has meant that I’ve not been able to revisit the Unclasped‘ exhibition at The Hellenic museum yet. I’m not able to go next week either … but I wanted to write a few thoughts I’ve had on it:

> I was glad to be able to get some time a few weeks ago to see Emeritus Professor Robert Baines’s lecture

  • the first part was a high-speed jaunt through some aspects of the jewellery of ‘Magna Grecia’, especially of the High classical era; this is Baines’s specialty and he knows it intimately
  • the second part was a simple reading through the artists’ statements – I was a little disappointed, as I could read them myself and I was truly hoping his experienced mind and eye would draw connections between the ancient works and the exhibition at hand; I expect he was being diplomatic and didn’t want to make comments that could be construed as critical (in the difficult awkward sense)
  • one point I found most interesting was how the ancient Greek jewellers were apparently obsessed with perfection, as the society at large was, however the back of their jewellery was hobbled together; “it’s a mess” as Baines pronounced with humour; the example he showed was an outrageously ornate object, but the components were connected together by tied gold wire at the back; this seems to be all about facade, about show only (which in no way does it qualify as ‘perfection’ to me!)
  • later he briefly discussed the work of the exhibition organiser Dr Nicole Polentas, which he’s also very familiar with (being Nicole’s PhD supervisor)… and he pointed out that she always chooses to show her work in photographs with front and back – the back being as important as the front ; she often shows them in the round in exhibitions, so viewers can see the beauty of the considered construction
  • … do you see how interesting the juxtaposition of these two points is? it seems to be a great difference in that modern jewellers prefer their entire piece to have integrity, it’s not just about ‘front’ or ‘show’

> There was a less-than-complimentary review of the exhibition in The Age newspaper

  • Questions of identity are central to policing and court procedure, and, so it seems, for RMIT PhD graduate and jeweller…“: “so it seems” reads as very dismissive and disrespectful, especially given how the jeweller in question writes at length about the importance of identity in her work; comparing this aspect of an artistic practice (and by the way, a means of expressing something incredibly personal) to the court system is more than unkind, it’s unnecessary
  • “… like the show itself, an awkward mix of the programmatic and the intuitive; the accomplished and the unresolved“: well of course; it’s a mixed show of emerging, early-, mid-career and established makers; further, it’s an exhibition of pieces collected from makers, not set with an initial/invitational concept, and so variation is to be expected and embraced
  • “Unfortunately, Unclasped includes plenty of what I think of as “amplified” jewellery: jewellery that is loud – and about as subtle as a knuckleduster.” : interesting … from my initial visit I think it’s fair to say many of the pieces are indeed bold, though the simile used here is (it seems deliberately) unflattering
  • “Life is noisy: jewellery doesn’t have to be.“: jewellery can so be noisy, the maker gets to choose what they want to make and show; this is a matter of taste and opinion, and not genuine (or helpful) critique … but I must remember that everyone has a right to their opinion

After reading the article I’m even more disappointed I’m unable to revisit the exhibition, to spend more time considering (and then writing about) the work.

I’ll be away (offline) for a little while … but hopefully I’ll be able to get to see its last week.

Unclasped: Discovering Contemporary Greek Jewellery‘ is at Hellenic Museum until 3rd April 2016.


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