What can an image tell?
I have received beautiful a gift: the catalogue of an exhibition of twenty years jewellery and objects made by Julie Blyfield. Work of remarkable particularity. Everything both sensed and understood. Observed and felt. I have seen some of Julie’s work in the flesh. Touched, felt, held it, years ago when I visited her studio in Adelaide; but since that time I have seen a little but not touched it.
Touched by but not touched.
I look at this image and try to imagine beyond the impression given by Grant Hancock’s evocative photograph, to imagine past its appearance on the page and into its being as matter, as a thing-in-the-world. To imagine how the work itself feels in the hand. In my hand.
When puzzled by an object, we summon up an assortment of sense memories to assist us. I have picked up and held similar-looking leaves; but not these leaves. I know the sound of leaves blowing, of leaves being swept and swirled by wind, of crackling and crunching underfoot. I know the sigh of desiccation’s prelude to disintegration.
These objects looks as though they might be almost weightless. I have touched leaves that looked as light; these look even lighter in their whiteness, but I read that they are made from silver. Silver is a heavy metal, and colour is almost always deceptive.
Evanescent ephemera captured in the moment of their swirl.
Paris Collection 2007
I think these vessels might quiver slightly and rustle as your fingers brush against them. But, again, I have no way of telling the thickness of the metal. Though heavy in the ingot, pure silver willingly works to great thinness and in the image it certainly looks thin, from the surface treatment, the texture, the wibbly edges. In my mind’s hand, I feel its eggshell lightness. In my mind’s ear I hear it whisper as I touch it. It is imbued with that marvelous paradox of fragility and toughness that never fails to enchant me. Never fails to elicit respect, whether as an attribute of an artifact or some feature of the natural world.
Scintilla series -- Bell weed and Tangled kelp 2010
I am unfamiliar with bell weed, but I do know the consistency and the tang of kelp. I have walked through wet kelp in bare feet, trying to keep my balance in the weighty slithery mass. I have cut my feet walking on the sharp and crackly edges of dry kelp barely hidden under fine sand. Julie, in an email accompanying images for this post, tells me that though these neckpieces look heavy (again, is this the deception of colour?) they are in fact light and make a tinkling sound when moved.
Again, we are perplexed and need to touch, to hear.
Above all, to wear.
About the author
Margaret West is an artist who sometimes makes jewellery; she writes: mostly poetry essays. She has exhibited widely in Australia overseas. She lives in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia.
About this blog
Touching the thingness of words the wordness of things.
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