Claire McArdle ‘Gilty’ @ No Vacancy Gallery

29 04 2013

I was really looking forward to seeing Claire McArdle‘s ‘Gilty‘ exhibition. The exhibition opened on Monday night (22nd April), but I wasn’t able to visit until the Saturday.

Exhibition media: “If an illusion deceives your perception does it make the first understanding invalid?
Does a gilt object betray us in some way or does it possess a truth of its own?
A skin of gold matches the contours of the bead in precise detail. It masks the underlying material of the piece which makes up 99% of its volume and 0% of its surface. How do you value the piece?
Is this piece pretending to be something else or is it exactly what it is and we have deceived ourselves with visual assumptions?
If you know the chain carrying the beads, the chain which is almost fully covered, is made of 18ct gold, how do you value the piece now?
Is this a truth wrapped in a deception? Or is it just a piece to be perceived with available knowledge and accepted for its form and known materiality?
Is this work guilty for being gilty?

Together with the magic exhibition image below, you can understand why I was fascinated and was looking forward to seeing the show.

from facebook; click on image for original source

from facebook; click on image for original source

I was imagining necklaces just like the one above, in my eyes referring to ancient works, lining the walls and challenging us to wonder how we value them if they’re plated and not pure gold … or even a mixture of both … and how do we know …

Instead there were chains on black circles, accompanied by photographs of what must have been there before.
It was incomprehensible to me and my friend.
We were both incredibly disappointed.
What had gone wrong with our understanding of the exhibition media?


installation; 27th April

We sought out comfort (for me, churros and chocolate) and sat down to chat about it. It was only then, when I spent time reading the little take-away booklet from the exhibition, that it became clearer.

*Spoiler Alert*

In the booklet: “an exhibition experienced twice …
Neckpieces experienced once as wearable gilt forms. Experienced again as edible gilt beads revealing the true gold chain beneath. The pieces have not changed, they are as they always were. But the circumstances of perception have shifted. …
Objects once untouchable, displayed on gallery walls are now free to be consumed. Something on the body to become something of the body.

Oh, so the beads were edible-gold-covered chocolate on gold chain. So the beads have been eaten at some point. Which explains only the chains remaining.

This is a fantastic and genuinely intriguing shift in perception and a great idea for an installation/performance, and it’s understandable why this was not obvious in the media as the surprise is the whole point.

However, if I knew that the there was to be a one-off ‘reveal’ of kinds, I would have made every effort to make it to the opening night. Perhaps it would have been best as a one-night-only event? With a week-long exhibition, it has left those of us not seeing the original work (well, at the very least me and my friend) really very sad.

Claire McArdle’s ‘Gilty‘ was at No Vacancy Gallery from 22nd – 28th April 2013.

Update (2nd May): please do also see Claire McArdle’s blog post (posted yesterday), and it has so many incredible images of her work and Zoe Brand’s excellent essays; and I love how Melissa Cameron describes it. You cannot imagine how much I wish I could have been there for the opening night – it looks like so much fun. AND there’s a video!

Claire McArdle ‘Tokens of Place’ @ Guildford Lane Gallery

24 08 2010

Thank goodness Guildford Lane Gallery is open on Sundays, otherwise it would be more likely I’d miss out on some exhibitions … there never seems enough time to visit all shows I want to see (for example, I am very unhappy I missed out on Open Studios at Nicholas Building – damn work!).

installation view; photograph taken and used with artist permission

Claire McArdle’s show at Guildford Lane Gallery is ‘Token of Place – which she spoke about in the rapid fire papers at the RMIT seminar a few weeks ago. The show was on the ground floor when I visited (above), where it looked a little lost among darker music space (the gallery hosts jazz groups on Fridays I understand), though Claire tells me that it will be moved to the second floor for the next fortnight.

installation view; photograph taken and used with artist permission

This is an interesting body of work, where each piece is made with collected and crushed rock/dirt and is titled with the location and time the materials were collected. I really responded to the idea of tracing a journey.

Claire writes in her artist statement:
The pieces could be from a street you walk down every day.
Each piece holds a memory of a place, to be carried with the wearer on their personal journey.
All the pieces are blackened silver with the variation in colour and texture of the rocks presenting a palette of the urban and rural environments the artist traverses.
These collected works are a history of place for the maker. A journey traced in jewellery.
They are a memento of a moment.
A token of a place.


The pieces are very well presented against (and incredibly discretely and well attached to) boards that look like rendered concrete – a perfect background for the pieces derived from an urban environment.

I particularly liked:

  • a little pin with dark green material called ‘Cedar Avenue, 4.14pm‘;
  • the resolution to the earring construction on ‘Brunswick Street, 12.42pm‘ is wonderful;
  • and the hinged earrings ‘Heatherdale Road, 12.18pm‘ were well-made, unexpectedly and delightfully sparkly.

Drybough Street, 7.12pm ; image courtesy of artist; copyright belongs to the artist

The above image was one Claire sent to me – I like that it’s placed against the concrete and not in a typical ‘white-space’.

The pieces as a group tell a story and have a shared vision/intent, and as such the show has great cohesion – contributed to no doubt by the palette of found rocks but also due to the choice to only use blackened sterling silver.

I wondered if the design of each was influenced by or referenced the place the materials were found, or something that was in her mind when she found them…

Claire McArdle’s ‘Tokens of Place‘ is at Guildford Lane Gallery until 29th August 2010.