Interview with Simon Cottrell

Interview  /  ArtistsBehind the Scenes
Published: 04.09.2013
Interview with Simon Cottrell.
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An interview last year between the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the head of the roman Jesuits.  Mr Rudd was just engaing in polite topical chat as he asked "What do you think is the the most serious issue that humanity needs to confront in todays world". The answer was "the globalisation of superficialty". He was expecting a very detailed comment about human rights or environmental issues. But the answer he received was revealing a fundamental cause of all the possible answers he was expecting. No decision or problem can solved by surface analysis.
Why jewellery and not sculpture? How important are the “dimensions/scale” in your creative process?
WHY would sculpture be any more appropriate???? Jewellery is inherently a far more intimate form of visual culture. Without even wearing it, just knowing that an object is 'jewellery', results in us reading its forms in very a different way. With jewellery we imagine it as being directly connected to our own person, sculpture does not, and cannot do this, it always remains far more autonomous and separate to us as individuals. Sculpture is primarily read in response to its immediate site, its setting, its context. While this is the same when we engage with jewellery, the primary the imagined context for jewellery is the human body, and primarily our own.

Yes, the communicative potential of sculpture is far more broadly expected by people, than it is within jewellery. But this does not make jewellery any less an appropriate means of expression. My work aims to provide close intimate quiet but resonant engagement over time. Jewellery is perfect for this.

So often I have people telling me they can imagine my works as large sculptures, I find this silly. At jewellery scale these forms are carefully balanced between organic and handmade forms, if increased to a sculptural scale they would become far too austere, too aggressive, all gentleness and quietness would be totally lost.

When it comes to scale, within jewellery, I do try to make work that sits right on the border between 'comfortable' and 'too big'. Large enough to expand expectations but always carefully considered to ensure that they remain supremely wearable.

How do you understand the relationship in between ethic & aesthetic ? Are they part in some way, intellectually talking, on your creative working process?
Lets consider a simplified view of the fundamental path of creative process, as schuster-nicole-schuster-nicole-beginning-2016-2016 with an idea and concept, moving through manual process and technique resulting in aesthetic outcomes. Our 'Ethic' or our personal approach to working, is primarily at the start of creative process, while 'Aesthetics' tend to arrive towards the end outcomes of creative process. Over many years of researching the creative process and the many and varied ways it can unfold, I have a clear understanding of the relationships between my work ethic and my aesthetic outcomes. Within the slow and incremental pace that I work, often the aesthetic outcomes of previous works are explicit within the concept of new work.

For many years I have explained my work as being both 'of' and 'about' my specific creative process. With the new work in this exhibition I am taking it further again. Reflection is the process that draws on previous aesthetic outcomes to inform the conception of new work. In many of my new works I am attempting make the process of reflection visible between the development of forms within one piece. At the same time I am trying to refer to reflection within the details of the work and also directly representing reflection across the overall work.

Regarding some words by Katie Scott, you complain about “a growing superficiality at the contemporary sight / view”. Which one will be the necessary conditions to change this sight / view? What does this “superficiality” means for you exactly?
There has always been a proportion of human culture that does not care to look beneath the surfaces. Today though more of what is available to be seen is composed of nothing but surfaces, there is nothing beneath, even if we try to look for it. In a culture of only surfaces, we have a rising amount of people who are simply oblivious to the existence or the mere potential of depths beyond surfaces.

This is not an issue that is only of concern for the arts its a major issue for humanity, socially, politically, environmentally. An interview last year between the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the head of the roman Jesuits. Mr Rudd was just engaing in polite topical chat as he asked "What do you think is the the most serious issue that humanity needs to confront in todays world". The answer was "the globalisation of superficialty". He was expecting a very detailed comment about human rights or environmental issues. But the answer he received was revealing a fundamental cause of all the possible answers he was expecting to receive. No decision or problem can be effectively solved by surface analysis.

How do you see the actual model to communicate and show your work to the public?
As community engagement within this field of work is ever increasingly online, I worry that our conception of jewellery is loosing a personal experiential touch? Are we reading three dimensional, potentially intimate objects as though they are only two dimensional static pictures. Are our expectations of the three dimensional realm becoming ever increasingly shallow. If this is the case its makes perfect sense that so much jewellery being made today is made of shallow surfaces... Talking loudly, but saying nothing.

I find it quite hilarious when people claim to ‘know’ my work having only ever seen photographs of it.

It is one thing to judge a book by its cover but it is another thing entirely to loose awareness of the potential contents that a book can convey through reading the whole book. Many jewellers today seem to have forgotten the intimate relationship between their work and the person who may wear it. I have never met anyone who wants to be treated like a pedestal.

I do not carefully consider my works for a life of sitting in a gallery exhibitions, on shelves in relationships only with each other. While yes, they can be read like that, this is only a surface view. My works are made to be worn, handled, fondled while wearing, carried in collaboration with its wearer in expression of their identity. The careful consideration of the relationship between my works and the people who choose to wear them is the foundation of my practice.

The last work, book, film, that has moved me was...
Across all creative fields I am generally drawn to things that embody and unveil something of their own nature.
I do read a lot, but usually non-fiction. These books by their definitive nature can provide great understandings and insights, but this is not really the kind of thing that will ‘move me’ in any significant and repeatable way. However contemporary improvised music (no not jazz) by its thoroughly abstract and intangible nature has a far greater potential to significantly ‘move me’ in long lasting ways. Generally I have an aversion to predictable formulae in music. I love the way that some music progresses and evolves through time, where the outcome is new and unfamiliar, not just in the overall composition but also in the sonorities of each elemental sound. The Norwegian/French quartet ‘Dans Les Arbresare a perfect example. One by one the musicians join and respond by altering and developing the progression and relationships between all the sounds created.
This music is not about anything other than what it inherently is: an unfolding responsive progression of aural aesthetic form and texture. Each step in that progression is a reflexive response to the previous...their only conscious aim is to thoroughly evolve through possibilities that rise from a framework of personal aesthetic priorities. It is this kind of progression that I attempt to build within my own work. The main difference being, that with my work you only really see the endpoint, the result of all actions piled up throughout the progression of making. Within improvised music of this kind you can follow in every decisive detail of the unfolding of creative progression in real-time.

Is there any designer, jeweller, artist, you appreciate a lot?
I do follow jewellery very closely, but there is very little work that I find very interesting.
While I am not universally engrossed by all of Lisa Walker's outcomes, I would say that no one else’s general approach impresses me to the same extent. The degree to which she seems to understand the conventions/formulae of jewellery, and the very make up of the common cultural expectations which surround it , is to me nothing short of wry genius.
What I find so impressive about her approach is that she manages to turn jewellery so bluntly and even against itself, and yet still holds onto its wearabilty (however tenuously at times). How she does this without directly making reference to familiar jewellery is truly impressive.
Her work always triggers me to try to be all the more clear about the conventions within my own ways of working.
No culture can have significant movement into new areas without being pushed. Needless to say, some of us, like Lisa push much more firmly than others.

What piece or work has given you the most satisfaction?
The work I am currently involved in making is always the most satisfying… it is the process along the path of materialsing the nature of cognitive and intuitive progression that is most satisfying for me. Once each piece leaves my hands and enters the life of a wearer as an extension/expression of their personal identity, I just want to keep going and start another piece.