Aurora Australis. Contemporary jewellery from Australia

Exhibition  /  01 Jun 2018  -  15 Jul 2018
Published: 24.05.2018
Sue Lorraine. Pendant: In Your Face, 2017. Heat colored mild steel, acrylic paint, sterling silver.. 10 x 12 x 1.3 cm. Photo by: Sue Lorraine. Sue Lorraine
Pendant: In Your Face, 2017
Heat colored mild steel, acrylic paint, sterling silver.
10 x 12 x 1.3 cm
Photo by: Sue Lorraine
© By the author. Read Copyright.

For the first time in North America, an exceptional venue brings together 17 contemporary jewellery Australian artists. Invited by Noel Guyomarc’h, Katie Scott, owner of Gallery Funaki in Melbourne, acted as curator and selected recognized artists from various generations with diverse aesthetic and conceptual approaches to offer a current portrait of jewellery from Australia. Under the metaphorical title, Aurora Australis, this major exhibition, almost a museum exhibition is a unique opportunity to discover the creative talent from Australia.

Artist list

Julie Blyfield, Simon Cottrell, Anna Davern, Bin Dixon-Ward, Sian Edwards, Kirsten Haydon, Marian Hosking, Inari Kiuru, Sue Lorraine, Carlier Makigawa, Blanche Tilden, Catherine Truman
This project was born over the past few years when I invited Australian artists, Blanche Tilden, Simon Cottrell and Marian Hosking to collaborate in thematic exhibitions. Exceptional landscapes, the unique diversity of nature and the encounter with indigenous art have been and still are sources of inspiration and reflection in art. Today other questions join our contemporary concerns: identity, the urban and natural environment, politics, the vision of reality ... Jewelry is also part of this movement. Geographical isolation probably justifies a lack of visibility on the North American scene. Yet this discipline is pretty dynamic in Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra, to name a few cities where there are schools or universities, with quite a few galleries dedicated to contemporary jewelry. For the quality of their work and ideas and imagery, these talented artists deserve greater visibility.  After discovering the jewelry of Finland, France, Spain, Holland, Taiwan, Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h is pleased to present this exhibition to the public.

About Katie Scott
Guest curator, began working at Funaki Gallery in 2006. Originally opened in 1995 by Mari Funaki, an artist who shortly after completing her training at RMIT University, decides to offer a place dedicated to Australian and international jewelry artists. In 2010, Mari passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Katie then decides to continue the activities of the gallery with the same requirements and the same vision. She has also initiated the Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewelry, a tribute to the artist, an award given to an established artist and an emerging artist who have distinguished themselves for the aesthetic, conceptual and design quality of their work.  

About this exhibition Aurora Australis, Katie Scott wrote:  
This exhibition brings together the work of 17 practicing Australian artists, each using material and form indistinct and individual ways. The works chosen reveal something of the breadth and quality currently at play in Australian craft practice, where a vibrant and engaged community of makers, educators and institutions operate.  
Exhibitions of Australian jewellery held overseas often focus on nature as an underpinning theme, as our environment is so central our identity on the world stage. However, Australia, perhaps more than any other country in which contemporary jewellery thrives, is a location where such easy themes can be problematic. Though our (often fraught) relationship with nature plays a major role in our art history, it’s combined with the influences born from encountering the avant-garde approaches in, modifying and allowing them to evolve for our own market. Even in the 19th century, silversmithing and jewellery in Australia adopted a relatively liberal attitude, re-working existing designs from Britain and using new materials and motifs, but without the strict rules around hallmarking that typified the British craft.  
This liberal attitude, somehow in our DNA, is also found in our approach to contemporary jewellery. Long-time geographic and cultural isolation means Australian artists inherited a passionate curiosity for ideas and techniques from the rest of the world. In the 1960s and 70s, many young artists travelled overseas to Germany and Britain, bringing back skills and innovations that were subsequently developed here, and others soaked up the influences of visiting and migrating European jewellers such as Hermann Jünger and Wolf Wennrich.

Australian jewellery is increasingly less concerned with the native symbols by which we are so often defined. As well as modern European influences, most of us live in cities, not unlike any other cities in which nature is either artificially cultivated or from which it’s banished entirely, so our source material is not so different to any other city-dwelling maker. This said; it’s undeniable that our environment – cultural and historical often more than physical – can play a fundamental part in artists’ work.

Marian Hosking and Julie Blyfield engage most directly with natural landscapes and botanical forms – Hosking through the casting of botanical specimens and Blyfield through traditional techniques such as repousse and chasing. This work is never merely souvenir, however, as Hosking and Blyfield deal with ideas around femininity and craft, artifact and history. Inspired by her immediate environment, Carlier Makigawa creates fascinating architectural structures, playing with spaces, movement and lines, always in reflection with nature.

Other artists explore industrial and inner-city environments: Bin Dixon-Ward, for example, replicates the large-scale block and grid systems of skyscrapers using 3D printing technologies, while Inari Kiuru looks closely at the smaller details of life in a semi-industrial urban setting – the flecks of sparkle in concrete, the sky above a factory or the subtle variations in the colour of steel.

 Kirsten Haydon’s research on Antarctica fundamentally informs her work, as she uses photography and enamelling to make sense of such an alien yet geographically near continent. Blanche Tilden’s work with glass and metal can be both site-specific (her Wearable Cities series encapsulated early modern steel and glass architecture as jewellery) and focused on basic geometrical forms as they relate to the body, as in her 2016 exhibition Clarity.  

For others, the Australian experience finds its way into their work in less obvious ways. Sue Lorraine, for example, articulates personal history with the same rigour and lack of sentimentality that she brings to bear on her earlier research into museum collections. Simon Cottrell’s practice – a slow and self-referential evolution – finds its origins in sources as diverse as experimental music, botany and machines yet his works don’t seek to illustrate any of these things. Instead, as Simon says, “the work doesn’t aim to tell a viewer anything; more simply I want to give the wearer and the viewer a personal sensory experience…”. 

Catherine Truman’s work is located in a fascinating space between the natural world and the interior spaces of the human body – her practice increasingly taking her into a parallel world of science laboratories and medical environments. Anna Davern uses found images and objects to interrogate and challenge accepted narratives around our colonial history and identity and does so with a combination of irreverence and seriousness that is itself, peculiarly Australian.  
Sian Edwards creates snakes, crocodiles and lizards: uncanny, wearable objects that replicate the slippery scaly-ness of the real thing. As they speak to the essentialism around notions of Australian identity and our relationship to a dangerous ‘outback’, they simultaneously subvert these themes by using sequins, materials familiar both to the glossy world of fashion and to the ‘lower’ crafts of beading and bedazzling. In doing so she locates the pieces in the heart of an urban environment perhaps tinged with a yearning for our desert heart.

As well as themes and materials, the methods of manufacture embraced by Australian artists are diverse. Maureen FayeChauhan uses a combination of computer and hand-made paper modelling, then laser cutting and painstakingly welding by hand to make her complex, patterned forms. We are always aware of the presence of Manon van Kouswijk’s hands at the core of her work, as she manipulates ceramic beads in her ongoing research into the potentialities around the beaded necklace form.

The marks of Marcos Guzman’s hands though, are hard to find. Though hand-made, his work is machine-like in its accuracy and refined minimalism – the poetry of his ideas hinted at more by the titles he gives his work than the perfect simplicity of their forms. Emma Fielden, one of Australia’s finest engravers and an emerging force in contemporary art more broadly, seems engaged in kind of meditation with the surface of silver as she uses hand tools to meticulously mark each piece hundreds – if not thousands – of times. Sally Marsland takes apart pre-existing forms found in second-hand shops – wooden items common in the Australian households of the mid-twentieth century – and re-constructs them as contained yet dynamic forms, their quiet eloquence heightened with accents of colour. 
In curating this exhibition at the invitation of Noel Guyomarc’h, I haven’t sought a single theme to bind the works together. Rather, it is the differences in each artist’s approach and concerns that I find most interesting – how a group of artists who have in common their education, environment and creative community can explore such varied ideas and materials using such distinct visual languages.  
It parallels a fundamental fact about this faraway nation: Australia is not just one place but many places, not just one nationality but many, not just one attitude but a complex tapestry of ideas, experiences and histories. Just as the southern night sky offers some of the best stargazing - though northerners rarely have a chance to see it - our studios house some of the most innovative and creative jewellers, whose talents are rarely seen outside our own backyard. It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with them, and I’m thankful to Noel Guyomarc’h for the opportunity to show this work to a northern audience. It’s a great pleasure to introduce our leading lights, our Aurora Australis. 

 / Katie Scott, March 2018.

This impressive selection by Katie Scott invites us to travel, to reflect about this wonderful work, and to question about the jewellery expressive possibilities.  Noel Guyomarc’h warmly thanks Katie for giving us this unique opportunity and the artists who responded enthusiastically to the invitation, to share with us their fabulous work.  
Carlier Makigawa. Necklace: Untitled, 2018. Sterling silver.. ø 30cm. Photo by: Jeremy Dillon. Carlier Makigawa
Necklace: Untitled, 2018
Sterling silver.
ø 30cm
Photo by: Jeremy Dillon
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Catherine Truman. Brooch: White Leaf, 2018. Paper compound, thermoplastic, steel, cotton.. 27 x 10 x 5 cm. Photo by: Grant Hancock. Catherine Truman
Brooch: White Leaf, 2018
Paper compound, thermoplastic, steel, cotton.
27 x 10 x 5 cm
Photo by: Grant Hancock
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Simon Cottrell. Necklace: From To, 2015. Monel, stainless steel, woven nylon cord.. 9.5 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm. Photo by: Simon Cottrell. Simon Cottrell
Necklace: From To, 2015
Monel, stainless steel, woven nylon cord.
9.5 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm
Photo by: Simon Cottrell
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Sian Edwards. Piece: Chameleon, 2014. Painted brass mesh, gold plated brass mesh, gold plated sterling silver, onyx.. 40 x 15 x 1 cm. Photo by: Orlando Luminere. Sian Edwards
Piece: Chameleon, 2014
Painted brass mesh, gold plated brass mesh, gold plated sterling silver, onyx.
40 x 15 x 1 cm
Photo by: Orlando Luminere
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Sally Marsland. Pendant: Everything depends on what we would rather do than change, 2012. Wood, paint, glue, nylon.. 6 x 10 x 5 cm. Photo by: Jeremy Dillon. Sally Marsland
Pendant: Everything depends on what we would rather do than change, 2012
Wood, paint, glue, nylon.
6 x 10 x 5 cm
Photo by: Jeremy Dillon
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Julie Blyfield. Necklace: Street Seed, 2015. Sterling silver, bi metal silver/22kt gold, protective wax.. 20 x 20 x 0.7 cm. Photo by: Grant Hancock. Julie Blyfield
Necklace: Street Seed, 2015
Sterling silver, bi metal silver/22kt gold, protective wax.
20 x 20 x 0.7 cm
Photo by: Grant Hancock
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Blanche Tilden. Necklace: Palais, 2012. Flameworked borosilicate glass, titanium.. 2 x 26 cm. Photo by: Grant Hancock. Blanche Tilden
Necklace: Palais, 2012
Flameworked borosilicate glass, titanium.
2 x 26 cm
Photo by: Grant Hancock
© By the author. Read Copyright.