Point and line on… Jewellery! by Judy Mccaig and Jamie Bennett

Exhibition  /  01 Jun 2019  -  29 Jun 2019
Published: 28.05.2019
Jamie Bennett. Painting: Untitled, 2019. Watercolour, gouache, ink.. Photo by: Jamie Bennett. Jamie Bennett
Painting: Untitled, 2019
Watercolour, gouache, ink.
Photo by: Jamie Bennett
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Two contemporary art jewellers who have chosen from their beginnings to place drawing and painting at the center of their approach. As suggested by its title, which alludes to Vassily Kandinsky’s second theoretical book on painting, this exhibition questions the pictorial dimension of jewellery as expressed in the work of these two artists, establishing a dialogue in order to highlight what distinguishes as much as what unites them.

Artist list

Jamie Bennett, Heidemarie Herb, Judy Mccaig
Through the selection of jewellery and graphic works, the exhibition shows the constant back-and-forth and the reciprocal influences at work between the different mediums summoned by these two artists, be it enamel and painting for Jamie Bennett or drawing and mixed media for Judy McCaig.

Regarded as one of the most prominent contemporary jewellers, Jamie Bennett is mostly known for his exceptional mastery of enamel technique. A discipline rooted in an ancestral tradition but which he nevertheless still contributes to renewing, by creating new forms as well as by inventing original techniques and textures.
His immediately identifiable style is characterized by fluid lines, reproducing all the freshness of a freehand drawing, combined with bold colour combinations and a network of geometric and abstract patterns, all displayed on an opaque enamel background.

In Bennett’s process, drawing and painting have a place of their own and, so to speak, parallel to enamel, whose implementation is particularly complex and procedural. Actually, it was a bit fortuitously at the beginning of his teaching career and after a visit to his studio that a gallerist encouraged him to paint. He succeeded in combining both activities for a few years, before definitely focusing on jewellery making and enamel. This fulfilled his need for experimentation. However, he did not give up drawing, which actually more follows than precedes the enamel work, each technique infusing the other.

While confessing the influence of Paul Klee and Jasper Johns, Jamie Bennett rather draws his inspiration in more distant cultural and historical sources: Not only Byzantine and Medieval art, Islamic and Far Eastern arts but also botanical drawings, celestial maps and ornament grammars that show a common interest for the representation of Nature.

By focusing on the universal dimension of jewellery instead of exploring its social and/or political issues, Jamie Bennett inscribes himself into an artistic lineage which is as ancient as the history of humanity, that of the interpreters of nature. But the latter, as he conceives it, has much more to do with Persian miniatures than with naturalist painting. Nature, as depicted in Bennett's work, is a fantasized, domesticated, recomposed and stylized one, thus proving his clear preference for parks over forests, as he puts it.

Jamie Bennett is some kind of gleaner, who picks up and accumulates sources without any previous calculation but rather according to his wanderings as a reader. Over time he thus has built his own visual vocabulary, a repertory of patterns, that appear recurrently within its different series. However, for him, it is not about slavishly reproducing a natural or culturally proven model. Instead, he appropriates these patterns, cutting them into multiple fragments before recomposing, associating, and aggregating them into new and unique graphical entities.

Through sampling and assemblage work, he suggests some parts of a great All, whose infinity remains invisible to us. Thus allowing his works to escape the limits of the frame predetermined by the format of the jewel. Then in the form of an additional enigma, adorning the reverse of the jewel, the artist keeps on increasing our curiosity by playing on the opposition inherent to jewellery, between intimacy and public space.

For her part, Judy McCaig's artistic approach is characterized from the very beginning of her training as a jeweller by the desire to go beyond the confines of a single discipline in order to explore the many possibilities offered by the techniques of etching/printmaking, photography and drawing, the latter remaining the backbone of her practice. More than any other discipline, thanks to its extremely simple implementation, this nomadic medium indeed offers the freedom of expression sought by this great traveller.

A superficial reading of Judy McCaig's works may suggest that nature is central to her inspiration. However, it seems more relevant that it evokes the notion of environments or areas of interaction. While remaining totally absent from the representation, the human figure is essential here. Judy McCaig’s work indeed questions the human vision, the way mankind contemplates the world and comes into contact with what surrounds her/him.

The artist offers us a cartography of reality in the form of fragments of spaces whose contours remain unclear yet bathed in a familiar atmosphere. The colours, the light which plays subtly with the surfaces covered with gold leaf or punctuated with these stones, barely held by threads, evoke fragments of places and experiences that were once crossed by a presence and are now given back to memory.

The evocation of time is conveyed by a masterly use of patinas and textures, where rust with its sepia nuances, brings a tone of nostalgia that is reminiscent of these brownfields, vestiges of a glorious past but now abandoned to nature.

One might be surprised by the paradox that led Judy McCaig to set her sights almost exclusively on the brooch format. It might be a way to play with the apparent rigidity of this framework, which is ultimately a place of passage. A kind of miniature screen or window wide open onto the world and placed on the chest of its wearer. The bird landing on its branch, the hindquarters of an animal stepping out of the field, the volumes of a room moving like in a pop-up book, all these elements suggest a continuum between the time and space of the representation and what could overflow or escape from this structure. This invisible space where lies the essence of all things, the jewel being a mirror or the visual and metaphorical trigger of a journey in one's self.

In Judy McCaig's and Jamie Bennett’s work, drawing goes hand in hand with the need to connect with a form of abandonment, a phenomenon which psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls the creative flow. For example, Jamie Bennett explains that the phases when he devotes himself to drawing offer him an indispensable field of exploration. A way for him to reconnect with the spontaneity of the gesture and to escape the constraining aspect of the technique of enamel that does not permit margin for an approximation.

Judy McCaig's use of drawing and writing in any place and anytime allows her to accumulate traces, impressions and visual archives of her experiences. A slow incubation work follows the sketching and graphics work and supports the entire phase of pure creation, before passing them through her memory filter and transcribing them in the form of free associations of materials.

The graphics work carries in germ all the potentialities of the jewel to come, but it does not possess its materiality or wearability. Constantly oscillating between the lightness of the drawing and the durability of jewellery, Judy McCaig and Jamie Bennett reconcile each in a unique way two major goals of any artist: embracing the flow of the creative thought to capture it, before shaping it into a form both tangible and durable.

As an echo to the works of Judy McCaig and Jamie Bennett, an invitation was addressed to Heidemarie Herb. Visitors will discover a selection of her jewellery works, from the Mini Pictures series. The artist explores the relationship between man and nature, the mysteries of the cycle of life, from birth to death, either by exploiting the expressive dimension of colour or by adopting a style which recalls the Chinese Literati paintings.
Jamie Bennett. Brooch: #14, 2019. Enamel, gold, copper, silver.. Photo by: Jamie Bennett. From series: Taken Place. Jamie Bennett
Brooch: #14, 2019
Enamel, gold, copper, silver.
Photo by: Jamie Bennett
From series: Taken Place
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Judy McCaig. Brooch: Shoreline, 2019. Enamel, glass, copper, silver, found objects, found material, recycled perspex, german silver, Herkimer diamond crystal, paint.. 7 x 9 x 2 cm. Photo by: Judy McCaig. Judy McCaig
Brooch: Shoreline, 2019
Enamel, glass, copper, silver, found objects, found material, recycled perspex, german silver, Herkimer diamond crystal, paint.
7 x 9 x 2 cm
Photo by: Judy McCaig
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Heidemarie Herb. Earrings: Untitled, 2018. Silver, brass.. Photo by: Heidemarie Herb. From series: Panta Rhei. Heidemarie Herb
Earrings: Untitled, 2018
Silver, brass.
Photo by: Heidemarie Herb
From series: Panta Rhei
© By the author. Read Copyright.