Matters of Life & Death

7th July - 25th Sept 2011


Findings Review Issue 53 Autumn 2011

FINDINGS, Issue 53 Autumn 2011
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FINDINGS
The Magazine of the Association of Compemporary Jewellery.
Issue 53 Autumn 2011

MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH
Kath Libbert Jewellery, Saltaire. 7 July-25 September
Reviewed by Elizabeth Moignard

I came to see this exhibition late in its run, by which time it had been seen by a lot of people, many of whom left photographs of themselves wearing a chosen item from the show, and the ideas it generated, in a Chain of Thought, which formed an important part of the exhibition alongside nine makers reflecting on crucial issues, challenging, enlivening and a pause for reflection.

Can jewellery be used effectively as a message-board by the maker? What happens when the piece is worn, if it is conventionally wearable rather than using a standard form to do something else, as Agnes Larsson's 'Carbo Neckpiece' uses carbon and horsehair to explore the permeable interface between life and death, via natural materials which have a presence in both states of being.

How does jewellery work as a statement medium for the maker, wearer and the viewer? What does each intend by their interaction with a piece? I would use Peter Vermandere's quirky Baroque Pearl Men deliberately to see what I get from the viewer - laughter, irritation, a comment on their inappropriate nature as an ornament? Pearls are organic, subject to decay by natural or interventionist activity: we might view Gisbert Stach's installation involving the overgrowth of a pearl necklace by a tree as a commentary not only on the connections between beauty and starvation, but also on the nature of ascribed value, of the interface between people, objects and time, and like many of his pieces and installations, on ephemeraliry and destruction. Is a title as important to the communication of the message as the piece itself? The work of Akiko Kurihara plays with visual and verbal puns and cross-references: her 'Faces' necklace takes the pearl necklace symbolism in another direction by giving it painted facial expressions, and is probably the example to which the title actually adds least.

Bernhard Lehner's 'Belt made from a Colt revolver used in the Spanish Civil war' is a product of his desire to create art to be touched, worn, and displayed on the body. The observer may recognise its elegant components as sections of a gun magazine, and view it as a positive move to create a beautiful object for the living out of an icon of the human killer-instinct. Iron and steel remain key metals in our lives; equally, they involve enormous environmental destruction in extraction, smelting, and onward use, often for further ruinous activity. Sophie Hanagarth’s 'Trap' braceletsare an interesting fusion of that theme with several others - they have the claws and teeth which are the weapons of an animal which may defend its own patch by attack on others, including humans.

The work which sits at the optimistic end of the spectrum of the show is probably the work that the wearing collector would actually be willing to display on themselves in the course of a normal day. Angela O'Keeffe's salt pieces foreground an essential element of life itself, but they are wearable as examples of their particular format — the 'Fading Light' necklace, with its labradorite collar and salt-crystal frontispiece, has a subtle colour range which could go with lots of different types of clothing, and many skin-colours. How far is the visibility and communication power of a piece linked to its form: does it have to be visually or aesthetically
unconventional to get a message across? Looking at Samantha Queen's 'KonaTree', I hope not. Her colourful plant forms are interpreted in mixes of materials which reflect on our potential power to reconstitute, conserve and repair ourselves and our damaged world through re-cycling and juxtaposition of precious and disposable, if damaging, substances. Equally, Lina Peterson's pieces are an exciting combination of surprising materials, often treated in experimental ways; the new 'Chinese Whispers' series comments wittily on organic growth and changing form.

'Life and death, light and dark, sobriety and humour' - an eloquent and moving reflection on the exhibition title by nine artists and its curator, and equally, a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about the nature of jewellery as a communication medium.

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm. Email:info@kathlibbertjewellery.co.uk