17th July – 28th Sept 2008

NOW & THEN
Antique meets Contemporary



Findings, September 2008
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FINDINGS - The Association for Contemporary Jewellery's quarterly newsletter.
September 2008

Now & Then
Kath Libbert Jewellery, Salts Mill, SaItaire, 17 July-28 September
Reviewed by Carrie-Ann Black

When I read the press material on Kath Libbert's latest exhibition
I was immediately intrigued. A collaboration between Kath and antique jewellery specialist Susan Rumfitt, curated around four enduring themes: 'Sentiment and Sex', 'Power and Politics', 'The Lighter Side' and 'Memento Mori', seemed to my mind ambitious and challenging whilst simultaneously providing the foundation for a compelling and thought provoking exhibition. I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Considering the significance of jewellery throughout history we are acutely aware that it provides a wider platform than personal adornment. Jewellery in its function of being worn close to the body creates an intimate relationship, and this provides the terrain to explore issues and create dialogue. The artefact becomes a revealing object posing questions and stimulates response. This is exactly what Now & Then seeks to do; taking four potent themes within society and looking at how 16 leading contemporary jewellers and examples of antique jewellery respond. Thus it provides the viewer with an opportunity to consider and respond to the juxtapositions of this work.

One of the themes in which I saw particularly strong parallels was 'Memento Mori'. The theme of lost love and our responses to death has historically been a key theme within jewellery. I was particularly struck by on the work of Melanie Bilenker, which looked a first glance like simple outline images of an everyday scene, such as reading a book. It is only with the aid of a loupe that you can see the images are created with thousands of pieces of Melanie's own hairs, inlaid in resin! Bilenker's work encapsulates and cherishes the small daily occurrences of life in the same way that the Victorians used hair within jewellery as a means of remembering and commemorating past loves.

When viewing the pieces that embody contemporary work in conjunction with antique pieces you initially consider them to be the antithesis of each other. However whilst the designs remain historically specific the dialogues in which they look to engage remain the same. It was in this context that I considered the work of Silke Spitzer, whose work came into the 'Power and Politics' theme. Spitzer raises awareness of environmental issues in her use of sustainable materials and in the narrative of her work. For example her striking black crow earrings are designed to hang upside down, making comment of the impact that the humans are having on the natural world. These are 'protest jewellery' in the same way as suffagrette jewellery, which used precious stones to spell out the initials of Give Women the Vote, of which there was a stunning example in the exhibition, an amethyst, pearl and diamond necklace, which had green and white decorative enamel scrolling.

Something I found particularly enjoyable about this exhibition was how it wasn't simply looking at a specific medium or a singular theme, rather it was a treasure trove of discovery. The juxtaposition of the work was sometimes subtle and it was only armed with the informative exhibition notes that you fully understood the curators' decision-making. Indirectly Now & Then demands that the viewer engages with the exhibition on several levels from aesthetic to psychosocial and in doing so considers the rich history of the jewellery world.

Collectors Event There will be a special evening event to accompany the exhibition at Kath Libbert Jewellery, Salts Mill, Saltaire on Tuesday 16 September at 6-9pm. After a drinks reception Susan Rumfitt, co-curator of the exhibition, and Adam Paxon, jeweller, will talk about the work on show. Places are limited so booking is essential. To reserve your place please contact the gallery by 5 September on 01274 599790, or email: info@ kathlibbertjewellery.co.uk.


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