Radiant Pavilion: Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery & Object Trail - Claire McArdle and Chloë Powell on establishing a southern focal point for contemporary art jewellery

Interview  /  BehindTheScenes   Making
Published: 23.01.2015
Radiant Pavilion: Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery & Object Trail - Claire McArdle and Chloë Powell on establishing a southern focal point for contemporary art jewellery.
Sanna Svedestedt
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During 1-6 September 2015, Radiant Pavilion will take over the inner-city area of Melbourne. Radiant Pavilion is a new platform for the jewellery field initiated by Claire McArdle and Chloë Powell. Through an open call artists can propose initiatives to create an event that brings makers, wearers, galleries, collectors, curators, theorists and the public together in a radiant jewellery week.
Australia’s new Jewellery Week?

We wanted to know more about the initiative behind Radiant Pavilion - a new platform for art jewellery in Australia and its aim to build a sustainable interest and appreciation for the art form. Here, event directors Claire McArdle and Chloë Powell explain their mission.

Radiant Pavilion is encouraging projects of all kinds - exhibitions, installations, live performances, seminars, workshops, open studios, one-off events, projections, artist talks and lectures. The open call is from February 1st until February 28th. Can you tell us a little about the application process and on what basis you will select artists and projects?

Claire: There will be a Selection Committee comprising three external members, all highly regarded in the field, as well as Chloë and myself as the co-directors of the event. Inclusion will be based on how well the project fits the objectives of Radiant Pavilion. There are no limitations on theme but the project must have a basis in contemporary jewellery and object practice.

Chloë: While we’re open to and excited by the possibility of activities across art forms and collaborative projects, Radiant Pavilion is first and foremost a contemporary jewellery and object event. And, of course, the activities need to take place in Melbourne and the inner-city area between 1-6 September 2015. As this is the first event, we’re not sure exactly what to expect but we’ve been hearing whispers of various project ideas – it’s getting pretty exciting.

Can you tell a little about what the background for Radiant Pavilion – have any events like this taken place in Australia before?
Chloë: There’s an active community of contemporary jewellery and object artists in Australia, supported by a number of galleries, such as Gallery Funaki, and a range of schools (including RMIT & Monash in Melbourne, Australian National University in Canberra, the South Australian School of Art and the Adelaide College of the Arts in Adelaide and Design Centre Enmore in Sydney).  Studio cooperatives such as Gray Street Workshop (Adelaide), Northcity4 (Melbourne) and SquarePeg Studios (Sydney), are important centres for the community. Given the distance between cities it’s not always easy to keep up to date with what’s happening around the country, and further afield. So, in addition to reaching a new audience, a key purpose of Radiant Pavilion is to bring the community together.

The Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia (JMGA) was established over 30 years ago. It holds an international conference every two years, with a supporting program of exhibitions and workshops. It’s wonderful that we have this event, as it’s a regular opportunity to discuss current themes and issues in the field. Coincidentally, the next conference is also set for this year, this time in Sydney. Some universities and studios also present seminars and symposia sporadically throughout the year. Though there will be opportunities for discussion at Radiant Pavilion, we wanted to place more of a focus on the work itself – the making and the presentation. One of the benefits of the event’s format is that artists can show their work and connect with peers and public on a larger scale than if they were presenting their activity alone.

How do you plan to involve the public in Radiant Pavilion?
Claire: One of the main objectives of Radiant Pavilion is to grow the audience of contemporary jewellery and object practice. This will be achieved through marketing and promotion of the event as a whole. Melbourne is a lively city where the inhabitants love to be a part of something new. To wander through narrow alleyways and uncover fresh delights in the galleries of the city. I think what stops a lot of people becoming interested in contemporary jewellery and objects is that they don’t know that it exists. Melbourne is a large, active city with an existing interest in the arts. It holds great potential for the success of Radiant Pavilion.

How is media in Australia treating cultural events like Radiant Pavilion?
Chloë: Melbourne has a really active arts culture, which is a big part of the reason that we’re putting on Radiant Pavilion here. The media certainly contributes to this through articles, reviews and interviews. Publicity is key to the success of this event, and something that we take seriously in our responsibilities to the artists involved. We’ve hired an established Melbourne arts publicist to assist with this, as securing publicity opportunities is a bit of an art in itself!
How is the governmental support to art & craft in Australia?

Claire: At the moment it's a pretty stormy horizon we look towards. There have been many cuts and mergings of late. But we have received funding from both the City of Melbourne and Creative Victoria for this project, as well as RMIT University. This has expanded the potential of the event enormously and will allow us to reach a much wider audience.

Chloë: It’s also an indication of their support of the art form and our community. Each state and territory in Australia has a government department dedicated to the arts. The federal funding body, the Australia Council for the Arts, also offers a range of funding opportunities to artists, producers and organisations. With the recent change in government the Australia Council is undergoing another restructure, which will see significant changes in funding to organisations across the country. The flow-on effects are difficult to fully comprehend at this stage but will no doubt be massive and far-reaching. I was living in the Netherlands around the time the cultural funding was cut and I saw the devastating effects it had. I fear that a similar thing will happen here very soon. But it is important to remember that there will always be change and this will always bring challenges. Rather than letting it scare us into inaction, we must direct our energy into making the most of the situation. I think artists and people working in the arts are taking things into their own hands, more and more, which is great to see.
Why do you think contemporary jewellery artists step out of their studios and work on larger projects?

Claire: When I was studying we would spend three months on one project, sometimes a single piece. I would spend weeks considering the curve of an outline, the suitability of a metal, asking myself endless 'why's. Then I stepped out into the world. The world where there are a thousand tasks to gnaw away your day. Where time in creative exploration is often shuffled to the bottom of the pile. To show your art work to a receptive public is an uncommon thing. Radiant Pavilion gives this opportunity to those who will take it.

How do you manage to do both your own artistic work and organise events such as this?
Chloë: I think it’s important to play to your strengths in life, and to contribute in the most productive way that you can. For me, this no longer includes making. Projects such as Radiant Pavilion, Ontketend! (Jewellery Unleashed) and the Mari Funaki Award have sustained me, in terms of my connection to this community, but more than this, they’ve enabled me to be of use to the field that I am passionate about. Claire, on the other hand, is incredibly committed to her artistic work and to maintaining an active exhibition practice, while simultaneously working on projects like Radiant Pavilion. I have no idea how she does it – I often wonder if she actually sleeps!

Claire: I find organising an event is mostly a social act where as my work is very solitary. The two balance together quite well. One is clean with a lot of writing and emails and end points while the other is ongoing, filled with techniques and blisters and re-imaginings.
And finally, to encourage artists to apply - any final words?
This is the chance you've been waiting for.

Radiant Pavilion will be open to project proposals between 1–28th February 2015.
Check the application guidelines and information here

Radiant Pavilion is supported by:

About the Directors:
Claire McArdle began an education in Gold & Silversmithing in 2007 at RMIT University. She travelled to Estonia for a semester of her Honours year after which she decided to curate an exhibition of Estonian and Australian contemporary jewellery and objects, "Words and Works from a World Away". This exhibition was held in Melbourne in 2013 and travelled to The Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design at the end of 2014. The accompanying book included several essays in Estonian and English. Claire has held six solo exhibitions and her work has been exhibited internationally in Thailand, Hong Kong, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria and The Netherlands. She has undertaken residencies in Australia, Mexico, Iceland and Estonia and won first prize at Contemporary Wearables '13. She holds a studio in Melbourne.
Chloë Powell has worked in the contemporary jewellery and object field since 2007. Most recently managing the inaugural Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery at Gallery Funaki, she also assisted on the 2008 Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia's biennial conference and has contributed to Art Jewelry Forum. Chloë spent a semester on exchange at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, later assisting Dutch curator and art historian Liesbeth den Besten on her book On Jewellery: an International Compendium of Contemporary Art Jewellery (Arnoldsche 2011) and on the international exhibition Ontketend! Grenzeloze Sieraden (Jewellery Unleashed!) at the Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem (now Museum Arnhem), Netherlands. She currently works on the Arts Residencies Program at Asialink, The University of Melbourne.

Logo image: Marcos Guzman wearing Bisou, brooch by Manon van Kouswijk. Photo: Chloë Powell.