Emma Fielden ‘Infinity’ @ Courtesy of the Artist Studio

9 03 2015

Following her National Contemporary Jewellery award, Emma Fielden is showing Infinity‘ at Courtesy of the Artist Studio (Surrey Hills, Sydney). Sadly I’m not able to get to the exhibition in person, but feel such a strong connection to the work that I’m compelled to write about it.

I’m impossibly in love with the below image.

image from COTA FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

image from Courtesy of the Artist FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

When I have an incredibly strong response to another person’s art work like this, I feel like I almost want to disappear into it … I wish I could have thought of it and made it … I want to possess it, not just the object but the ideas that built it … it’s a strange ache, an unnamed emotion … and exceptionally difficult to describe (without sounding just a little psycho!).

I believe the above is a close-up of the below drawing. It’s amazing to my eyes … little changes in the tilt of her hand, ink and energy flow and such, show up in subtle unintended yet beautiful rhythms in the pattern.

image from COTA FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

image from Courtesy of the Artist FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

Exhibition media: “For this exhibition Emma presents a series of work on the theme infinity – a series of drawings, engraved brooches, and for the first time a print.
The notion of infinity has been emerging in Emma’s work for some time. Her earlier works involving line, mark making and drawing evolved into an exploration of the grid, and in her last body of work (2013) she came to take the grid as a symbol of infinity. Now Emma Fielden has entered into a deeper and more thematic exploration of infinity, both as a mathematic and metaphysical concept.

It was only after falling for the above drawings that I also read what Emma has written about her work: “They are pictures of the night sky. They are star gazing. They are a decimal expression of infinity. They are a trinity. They reject religion and suppose its origin. They are devotional. They are an abyss. They are wonder at the infinite and our place in it.” 

Oh my … this speaks to so many things I love … numbers and the stars. Not to mention my adoration of work that involves precision, extreme patience and attention; and I think I may also love repetition, but repetition that permits small variations.

The exhibition includes brooches too; though I think they’re trickier to get a feel for without seeing them in person.

I remember seeing the series that secured her award at Courtesy of the Artist last year and felt strangely uncertain though intrigued by them. I think their flatness, their almost two-dimensionality, felt close to unsubstantial … somehow less satisfying than if they had a little more weight or physical depth … though in retrospect this choice is no doubt entirely intentional and required for the expression of the intent.

image from COTA FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

image from Courtesy of the Artist FB page; used here with explicit gallery permission; click on image for original source

The Courtesy of the Artist facebook page has a interesting statement attached to one of the photographs: “The lines of the grids extend to the edge of the surface and, by virtue of the imagination, to infinity. Each element is part of the larger grid, which is itself a portion of an even larger one and so on.
Akin to Cantor’s Dust, the work points to the scale of infinity – the infinitely large and the infinitesimally small. It draws on set theory and it’s infinite infinities. And by breaking down the grid and placing it upon the body, it seeks to make the infinite intimate.

I’m sorry I cannot see the whole body of work in person; here’s hoping that perhaps in time Melbourne shall host an exhibition.

Emma Fielden ‘Infinity‘ is at Courtesy of the Artist Studio until 28th March 2015.


ps. make sure you check out Emma’s website, and follow her if you’re on Instagram if you don’t already (the photograph of her drawing with magnifying lenses on is my favourite).

‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘ @ Powerhouse Museum

28 10 2014

Jewellery lovers need to see the Powerhouse Museum’s ‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘. It’s astonishing and there are so many pieces from such a breadth of sub-genres.

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Exhibition media: “Jewellery has been made and worn for personal, social and cultural reasons through millennia. Styles, materials and practices have varied across time and place, yet the desire to adorn ourselves has been universal.
Jewellery can influence the way people perceive us, make us more attractive, mark special events or symbolise wealth and status. We make, wear, give, receive, collect and express our identity, individuality and creativity through jewellery. It contributes to our spiritual, cultural and emotional well-being.
A fine possession celebrates the central place of jewellery in our lives, from antiquity to the present-day, through a sumptuous selection of jewellery made, worn and collected in Australia.

The website is excellent and shows selected items from each of the themes in the exhibition.

  • Belief & Magic – the kingfisher feather pieces were utterly gorgeous, and the inclusion of quite a broad group of pre-industrial cultures was great to see
  • Love & Death
  • Nature & Culture
  • Style & Revival
  • Gold & Identity
  • Status & Wealth
  • Men & Adornment
  • Modernity & Change
  • Evolution & Revolution
photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Within the cabinets where were explorations of sub-themes too … materials, identity (I was exceptionally happy to see Nicole Polentas included here), fantasy (and again I was most pleased Claire McArdle is represented here) …

There are a genuinely impressive number of pieces, with many being loaned from private and other collections. My visit made me want to know more about the oft-mentioned ‘Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences’ … which after only a little investigation it became clear was in fact the parent of the Powerhouse. So I have visited them after all!

It surprised me that there were pieces here from the NGV that I’ve not seen exhibited in our own gallery before – including a stunning opal tiara.

I’m sure others have written, and will write, more eloquently about the structure of the exhibition and other such technical matters. I’ll attempt to list them at the bottom of this post as they arise.

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

photography under gallery conditions; no flash

You can see from the images above that the room was dark. Damn dark. Painted black and only with limited lighting on the items.

What is this about? Have curators recently all made a pact to do this (remember the Incas at NGA earlier this year)? I found the darkness disorienting and exceptionally tiring; it was difficult to refocus my eyes after looking at the underlit cabinets to find my way to the next one. It was genuinely disconcerting and exhausting.

The description cards were also a little disappointing with the names of the makers being almost secondary (an example is below). It is in much smaller text than the headline, which was usually a description like brooch or the title of the work, and even came after the materials listing.

item card

item card

In an ante-room there are two cabinets with work of graduates – which is fabulous. And they were well lit; making the discomfort of the main exhibition viewing all the more obvious. The most outstanding from this group was a three brooch group by Andrea Caliguiri (item card above).

It’s a shame that there isn’t a publication associated with this exhibition. Though I wonder, given many of the pieces are loaned, if there just wasn’t time before the opening. Does anyone know if a publication may be coming? What a magnificent opportunity to document such a group … I hope one is forthcoming. Perhaps a kick-starter project would help? I’d totally donate!

Nature cabinet; photography under gallery conditions; no flash

Nature cabinet; photography under gallery conditions; no flash

All that said, I enjoyed the exhibition and consider it a landmark for jewellery; in fact I mentioned to friend afterwards that I think this is the best gathering of jewellery I’ve ever seen, even better than the V&A (though that could be a little hyperbolic, and it’s only fair to admit that my memory has faded a little on that count).

A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘ is at Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) until 20th September 2015. I may in fact visit again.

Press / Reviews

18th September: Jewellery gone overboard at Powerhouse Museum? Suits you sir (The Age)

20th September: Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge necklace stars in Powerhouse Museum exhibition A Fine Possession (Herald Sun)

28th September: Sim Luttin, A Fine Possession

1st October: A Fine Possession – Rare Gem at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum

1st October: A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity Review

25th October: radio interview: Jewellery expert Anne Schofield (one of the key people involved in this exhibition)

12th November: Crikey review (focused on artefacts from tribal cultures)

Update (30th October): make sure you watch Powerhouse Museum’s Facebook page – they’re regularly focusing on pieces from the exhibition.

Update (19th November): interestingly, there is a photograph on the Powerhouse Facebook page in which the floors look so much lighter than I recall from my visit. I wonder if things changed since my visit, or if the photograph was taken before the floor was darkened … or perhaps, my photographs and memory are lying to me!

Update (11th December): I found this interesting piece about the lighting used for the exhibition; it’s great to get an understanding of the remit given and the many considerations. Plus they’ve included some gorgeous photographs of the exhibition.


apparently from some time in December (or so) the exhibition will include a short-term loan from Queen Elizabeth … ooooooh

‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘ @ COTA

26 10 2014

Hooowee, I’d forgotten how humid Sydney can feel in Spring; but the sun was out and that always makes me happy.

As planned, I popped into Courtesy of the Artist to see the ‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘.

Exhibition media: “The National Contemporary Jewellery Award was started in 1992 by the Griffith Regional Art Gallery to support the development of the National Contemporary Jewellery Collection.

photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

COTA’s gallery room is a beautiful space.

It was a strange experience though – I think I’ve already seen the pieces (perhaps all; though if not, almost all) online, so seeing them in person wasn’t as much of a thrill as it would be without the prior exposure.

Of course I’m glad I saw them in person – and I really do think that the prevalence of online documentation of exhibitions is completely fabulous (especially for anyone not able to go due to geography or mobility etc) – though this may be something for curators to think about.

I wonder if the ease of seeing pieces online (facebook especially) is taking the edge off the need to visit exhibitions in person? Though I expect that it may also in fact be increasing traffic. Do any gallery staff have a feel for the impact of online photos? As a balance, I would suspect that a few key pieces online would be ideal, with full documentation after the show has closed (oh wait, that’s been the case here, as this is a traveling show!).

Thoughts from more experienced curators, and other exhibition visitors, are most welcome.

photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

Participating artists are:

  • Sun-Woong Bang, Alyra Bartasek, Julie Blyfield, Brendon Collins
  • Emma Fielden, Karin Findeis, Felix Gill, Pennie Jagiello
  • Lauren Joffe, Rebecca Hinwood, Carly Lay, Danielle Mackenzie
  • Vicki Mason, Shan Shan Mok, Courtnee Nichols, Carl Noonan
  • Juliette Pastorok, Felicity Peters, Jessamy Pollock,Phoebe Porter
  • Jana Roman, Bridgette Shepherd, Emily Snadden, Sarah Spackman, Blanche Tilden
photograph with gallery permission

photograph with gallery permission

Highlights for me were:

  • brooches by Emma Fielen
  • brooches by Jessamy Pollack (whose work I admired in BUDA last year)
  • colourful neckpiece (centre in image above) by Karin Findeis.

National Contemporary Jewellery Award 2014′ is at Courtesy of the Artist (Sydney) until 1st November 2014.


Update (28th October): It was remiss of me not to link to the Griffith Regional Gallery, where “NCJA is an acquisitive prize sponsored by Griffith City Council and held at Griffith Regional Art Gallery biennially.“. This exhibition showed there 4th – 28th September.

Also, their facebook page is where I saw high quality images of the works.


Upcoming Sydney visit

16 10 2014

So I’m popping into Sydney for a day-trip later in the month to see some jewellery exhibitions.

Powerhouse Museum’s ‘A fine possession: jewellery and identity‘ is first.
Then the ‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘ at COTA.
And M Contemporary ‘Intimately Connected‘.
If I have time I’ll pop into Studio 20/17 of course.

What else should I put on the list?

Update (20th October): maybe I can add Craft NSW ‘Emerging Artist: Craft Award 2014