Bejewelled Treasures : The Al Thani Collection @ V&A

29 03 2016

While in London I visited a favourite museum, the Victoria and Albert.

I was quite excited about seeing the exhibition ‘Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection‘; I had booked my ticket many many months ago.

at the V&A

at the V&A

I went through it in less than 15 minutes.
It was overwhelming in the unfortunate way.

Too much ‘bling’. Too gaudy.
Someone else said it was too vulgar (so British).

It was basically a show of large stones put in, sometimes admittedly beautiful, metal settings.

It was just hit after hit; dazzling in the unpleasant way of feeling like you’ve been through a hurricane or repeatedly dumped in the surf (so Australian).

exhibition media; click on image for original source

exhibition media; click on image for original source

And the exhibition design … when are curators going to tire of the ‘dark room with bright cabinet lighting’ trope?

I’ve said it before, this ‘jewel box’ exhibition design – where the only lighting is bright and on the objects, with the floor/walls/ceiling painted black – is exhausting and disorienting (not to mention headache-inducing).

I was so sadly disappointed. I have no idea how you could make this a more visitor-friendly exhibition … but it would have been lovely to see some of the objects in natural light and displayed against the kind of textiles they would have been worn on/with.

Lastly though: look closely at the first photograph above. The exhibition conditions included no photographs (understandable) and no sketching. The latter is quite unusual from my experience. And disappointing too – for I do like to sketch objects I’m not allowed to photograph (in pencil of course), for it allows time and room for a connection with the object.

Happily though, the remainder of the museum is still a total delight to visit.





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.





‘Unclasped’ @ Hellenic Museum, preview

4 02 2016

Just a few photographs from the Unclasped‘ opening at Hellenic Museum … how wonderful!

photograph taken with prior permission

photograph taken with prior permission

I will write more when I have a chance to inspect the lovely jewellery closer, and think a little more about it.

photograph taken with prior permission

photograph taken with prior permission

I plan to visit again next Friday for Robert Baines lecture.

photograph taken with prior permission

photograph taken with prior permission

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





Upcoming: ‘Unclasped’ @ Hellenic Museum

23 01 2016

It’s not usual for me to write a special post to talk about an upcoming exhibition … but I like to do this for friends from my RMIT days.

Dr Nicole Polentas … yes, she’s a Doctor now! … is curating an exhibition that will shortly open at Hellenic Museum in Melbourne.

Unclasped: Discovering Contemporary Greek Jewellery‘ is “an exhibition of contemporary jewellery objects, bringing together and examining the practices of twenty-two artists of Greek descent currently working in Greece, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Cyprus and Australia.

The exhibition aims to provide a platform for contemporary thought in order to highlight the work of both established and emerging international Greek artists.

Exploring the connections between the manufacture and the act of wearing jewellery, the works encompass a wide variety of contemporary jewellery making techniques and mediums; expressing the diverse nature of modern jewellery practice within the Hellenic diaspora.

Exhibiting Jewellers: Aggelika Diplari, Akis Goumas, Anastasia Kandaraki, Artemis Valsamaki, Christina Karakalpaki, Constantinos Kyriacou, Danae Natsis, Demitra Thomloudis, Dimitris Nikolaidis, Efharis Alepedis, Erato Kouloubi, George Giannoutsos, Ismini Pachi, Liana Pattihis, Mala Siamptani, Maria Tsimpiskaki, Nicole Polentas, Niki Stylianou, Poly Nikolopoulou, Vicky Kanellopoulos, Vivi Touloumidi and Zeta Tsermou

[text from Hellenic Museum site]

The exhibition will run from 6th February to 3rd April 2016, and there are many associated events such as artist floor talks.

Check out Nicole’s facebook page for progress shots of the amazing exhibition space (designed by Christopher Earl Milbourne) and events.

exhibition media

exhibition media

exhibition media

exhibition media

Get along … I expect to see you there!

Please also see:





Exhibitions that were: 2015

26 12 2015

Of the exhibitions during 2015 that I was able to visit and write about, my top two are:

Many of the exhibitions were part of the excellent jewellery happening ‘Radiant Pavilion‘.

All the other exhibitions I’ve written about in 2015 (in chronological order):

Also:





Emma Fielden ‘Iota’ @ Gallery Funaki

26 11 2015

It was such an absolute pleasure to finally see Emma Fielden‘s work in person in Iota‘ at Gallery Funaki.

Wow. Just wow.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

“At the centre of my practice is the notion of infinity. The ideas that any line drawn is a mere portion of its infinite potential, and that a mark made is a part within a whole, are fundamental beginnings in my work, which I explore through drawing and objects, in various materials and techniques.” EF, 2015

I was exceptionally interested in seeing the handwritten ‘Infinite‘ drawings, that I’d responded to (incredibly strongly) via images from her Sydney exhibition earlier this year. Even more amazing than I expected.

For some reason I thought that the drawings were built up of little circles; but now realise that it is the number 3 repeated … in a secular meditation on the repeating decimal representation of 1/3 … and being in a triptych, together the three complete to a singular ‘one’.

Make sure you read Emma’s own explanation on her website – which of course, as per usual, I only read after writing the above(!): “The work references devotional religious acts and is itself a devotional act.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

The brooches and vessels were a revelation. And smaller than I expected; in the good way, for I like smaller things.

If you visit, please make sure you ask for her technique to be explained. While the pieces are most definitely beautiful in their own right, I believe understanding their construction … the intense precision freedom involved … can only add to their appeal.

Initially I was a wondering if perhaps a perfectly circular (or other geometric) edge shape would align and reflect with the overall concept of infinity … for somehow I have a view, not unlike our ancient and medieval forefathers, that infinite must mean perfect. Perhaps also because I saw perfect geometry in her other Infinity pieces. However I let go of that requirement when I was told that Emma actually makes her own ingots and shapes then to make the plate for the brooches, in many/most cases permitting the edges to form as they choose … another practice I relate to.

I really did want to take some home, especially ‘The Jewel (after James Wright)‘ and the one that looks like an opened clam. Do have a look at the detailed photographs … you can see how the surface detail is formed by repeated engraving. They are a marvel.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

And vessels! There should be more vessels in the world I tell you.

Axis Mundi is also an important component of the exhibition. I think perhaps my aversion to shiny-shiny interrupted my contemplation … the mirror is important, for it reflects the construction into an infinity … the vision is coherent, the installation takes hours and hours (nay, days!). Of course the mirror makes total sense … though I have a thing about mirrors … (this is usually where one says ‘it’s not you, it’s me’).

It’s pretty obvious I respond strongly to Emma’s work … the reflections on the infinite … the implicit and intuitive mathematical fundamentals … the devotion … the mediation, obsession, attention to detail, commitment … quiet determination … there is an exceptional clarity that I can only wish for.

Emma Fielden ‘Iota‘ is at Gallery Funaki until 5th December 2015.





2015 Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award @ Castlemaine Art Gallery

7 10 2015

It was the most stunning Spring day when I took a drive into the countryside to Castlemaine, to see the latest episode of the important Buda prize: the ‘2015 Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award‘ at the Castlemaine Art Gallery.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

Awards (see gallery page for beautiful photographs):

  • (professional) The Leviny Commemorative award: Daehoon Kang … this is an amazing vessel, with the most stunning counter-balancing design and gorgeous surface treatment
  • (professional) Arts Centre Melbourne Silver award: Janine Tanzer … the shape and decorative elements harking back to the height of the roaring 20s
  • (professional) The Australian Decorative and Fine Art Societies Emerging artist award: Maureen Faye-Chauhan … strongly geometric pieces (as per her recent exhibition)
  • (professional) The Australian Decorative and fine Art Society of Yarra Anniversary award: Joungmee Do … the most exceptional, outrageous, jubilant object (below image)
  • (student / recent graduates) e.g.etal Design & Development award: Yu Fang Chi … incredibly delicate, almost like fairy-floss
  • (student / recent graduates) A & E Metals award: Larah Nott … her smithing pieces won her this award, though I especially liked the precision of her neckpiece
  • (student / recent graduates) Gold & Silversmithing Guild of Australia award: Kimba Pham … proving that scale isn’t necessary to show exceptional design and handskills
Joungmee Do's piece ; photograph with gallery permission

Joungmee Do’s piece ; photograph with gallery permission

This gallery is a much more deserving place for this exhibition … the previous venue in Bendigo wasn’t quite right (though should have received many visitors), and Buda (though a lovely home) was almost not quite grand enough. It’s pleasing for these objects to be positioned in an art gallery, in a room adjacent to a colonial collection. Perhaps it’s the traditionalist in me, but I think this space elevates the pieces, and hopefully it does this for visitors (particularly those who’ve not come to the gallery especially to see this exhibition).

photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

Of course I particularly like to see the larger scale smithing objects in this exhibition – for me the first vitrine was wonderful (first image above). There are not as many shows for this oeuvre as there is for jewellery, so it’s a joy to see them playing with each other. Most especially I was pleased to see less highly polished surfaces this year, and perhaps more diversity of materials.

2015 Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award‘ is at Castlemaine Art Gallery until 18th October 2015.

See also:

Check out the article in The Age too :  ‘Craft review: Contemporary Australian silver and metalwork dazzles‘ … the author makes an interesting point about six of the seven award winners being women.

More photographs below (not published above to save load times):

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