Unnatural phenomena: Patricia Correia Domingues and Sara Gackowska

Article  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes   Making
Published: 06.07.2015
Unnatural phenomena: Patricia Correia Domingues and Sara Gackowska.
Eli Giannini
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Patrícia Domingues and Sara Gackowska share a moment before the opening of their joint exhibition. Image courtesy of Fred Kroh..
Patrícia Domingues and Sara Gackowska share a moment before the opening of their joint exhibition. Image courtesy of Fred Kroh.

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In August last year the Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery awarded Patrícia Correia Domingues and Sara Gackowska each with the prize in the emerging artist category.  Both jewellers were unknown to the three judges (Warwick Freeman, Simon Cottrell and Julie Ewington) but left a deep impression on them for the artistic maturity of their work.
At the time I wrote a review for Craft International magazine where I remarked how Domingues and Gackowska play with “the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi an aesthetic principle where imperfection plays a great part in engendering beauty to an object”.  This is even more evident in Surfacing where we can admire a whole collection of objects by the two artists and witness their search for perfection in the imperfect.
Coincidentally both Domingues and Gackowska work with stone or as we will see later with the idea of stone which gives this show a very coherent aesthetic, meaning that, Katie Scott, the gallery director, has been able to display the work of one artist alongside the other in such a way that each piece becomes a counter point to the next and simultaneously a continuity of experience.  The fact that the artists had never met till the week of the opening makes the event an even greater feat of curatorial farsightedness.
I say counterpoint because the theme of the natural versus the artificial is played beautifully by the adjacency of Dominques’ pieces, which for this exhibition are all in artificial stone, and Gackowska’s ones which are all in a natural stone and bio-resin or fabric.
Domingues, who has been making jewellery since she was 15, studying and training in Portugal, Spain, Estonia and Germany, has also worked with natural stone, for example: Sodalite; a blue gemstone which she deploys with great effect by marrying it with Arkansa (a stone used mainly as a sharpening tool) and at times also with Lapis Lazuli or Quartz.  Her thesis works Borders is a study on the edge between contrasting materials.
She says that stone can be ugly or at least represent the crasser nature of commercial jewellery but she was fascinated by the possibility of it and went looking to discover if she could find a way into the material.  Thus she started by creating ‘atmospheres’ for the stones by superimposing them with photos of landscapes and found a way to re-present the stone and in turn, I assume, this led her to create, the ‘suggested landscapes’ we see in her pieces dating from 2013.
Collage Landscape with stones and Entrench 2013 (Arkansa,  Sodalite, Steel)

Reflections on Landscape 2011 (Reconstructed Wood, Corian, Steel) 
For this show at Gallery Funaki Domingues’ efforts concentrate very precisely on creating the illusion that we are looking at naturally occurring cracks in real stones or at natural forms when in fact we are looking at Necuron, Artificial Ivory and Artificial Coral, formed or shattered to suggest the infinite variety of patterns and stone formations in nature.  The effect she creates is a veritable conjuring of the natural from the artificial, but this is no mere mimicry: invention is at the centre of each piece, leaving us to wonder: what stone is that which can break in ever decreasing spiralling patterns or break in a series of horizontal lines resembling the armature of a beetle? 
Geographic and imagination #9 and # 13 2015 (Necuron, Steel)

And what stone would break in such complex ways as appear in Duality?

Duality, 2015 (Necuron, steel)

This same spirit of invention is demonstrated in a compatible but fundamentally different way by Sara Gackowska who has studied in Poland and Finland.  At first glance the similarity in scale and shape of her objects to those mentioned above, as well as the use of surface cracking as motif would make us believe in a common provenance of ideas.  However Gackowska’s work is propelled by the way materials can be transformed into different states through the work of nature or the artist.  For example prior to working with stone the artist made pieces in charcoal and amber because both materials derive from wood. 
For the last two years Gackowska has been working with Hematite, a stone that takes its name from the Greek word haima meaning blood, which she polishes to a uniform metallic grey and combines with bio-resin mixed with the blood-coloured powder which is the by-product of the cutting process. 
Sara Gackowscka cutting Hematite

In Surfacing Gackowska’s works range from brooches to necklaces, some brooches are quite ambiguous (photo of Abyss and Wave) as their scale resembles that of an object rather than jewellery, most combine the stone with the bio-resin by layering the two or encasing and embedding one within the other and hence contrasting the metallic sheen of the polished stone with the porosity of the resin creating a new geological form which can be worn next to the body as an object that offers both comfort through touch, while seeking the attention jewellery is designed to attract through its lustre.

Abyss 2015 (Hematite, Bio-resin, Silver)                                          Wave 2015 (Hematite, Bio-resin, Silver)

Gackowska achieves an intimacy with the body especially with her two necklaces which combine fabric with hematite and remind me of Membrane (brooch 2013) her winning piece for the Mari Funaki Award, where the lustrous layer of stone sits over the more giving, almost fleshy, mass of bio-resin.  By re-uniting the two materials she engages us in a kind of story-telling and as I look at the show I start to wonder if she is familiar with the saying ‘you can’t squeeze blood from a stone’ because this artist has managed to do exactly that; literally but also metaphorically through the dark and visceral quality of her work. Constant Movement, 2013, (Hematite, String, Fabric)        Exchange of Thoughts 2013 (Hematite, String, Fabric)

In Surfacing Gackowska and Domingues demonstrate the primacy of the material as the generator of the creative process.  As Gackowska says:  “Contact with the material is the most important for me… [and] is the factor that gives me the most pleasure from work.”
Both artists have taken us on a material journey from which we can start to imagine the exciting possibilities of this frontier so elegantly opened by them.

Jeweler Artists Patrícia Domingues and Sara Gackowska

This article was published on June 15th at ArchitectureAU.
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About the author

Eli Giannini is a Melbourne architect who has recently returned to formal study by undertaking a bachelor degree in Fine Arts at RMIT.  She works in collaboration with Sue Buchanan specializing in site-responsive works.  She has exhibited projects in the Australian Pavillon  at theVenice Biennale (Architecture), at the TarraWarra Museum of Art and at the Storey Hall Gallery RMIT and with Sue Buchanan in the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award and the Melbourne Prize.  Recently Eli has been writing reviews of shows at Gallery Funaki.