Here is an extract from a review in last Saturday’s NZ Herald by the (very) long term regular reviewer – T. J. McNamara – where has he been for all these years? Just concentrate upon the first two paragraphs but I left in the rest to give you, dear readers, some extra context.
Retrospect, is a contemporary jewellery show curated by Jo Mears. This work is not by manufacturing jewellers. All the participants are fine arts graduates into individual expression.
Jewellery seems to have replaced the pottery movement that dominated New Zealand craft last century. As the pottery movement developed it was prone to tend to ceramic sculpture. The essential vessel quality that is the basic characteristic of good pottery was smothered. Here the function of jewellery being next to the skin is often lost as the work is made to hang on a wall or remain static.
The exhibition is strongly influenced by Wellington-based jeweller Peter Deckers. A huge cabinet involving 64 lenses that magnify pieces of his jewellery within the case is the centre of the show. The jewels include a large silver hand-hammered nail and details from The Night Watch impressed on a spoon. Deckers, who spoke at the opening of the exhibition, emphasised that jewellery is often associated with gifting which he said was a “primal urge” and the gift must have value; a gift must be in some way precious.
In this craft jewellery, the value often lies not in precious stones or valuable metal but in originality and imagination.
The materials range from circuit boards, with their glittering electronic detail, to rabbit excrement, baked and varnished to look like jet. Something like a conventional necklace called Noisy Blob Strings by Sharon Fitness is colourful plastic and incorporates ipods and earphones. The transformative power of imagination and skill is best seen in the exquisite fan shapes made of silver and takeaway containers by Kristin D’Agostino.
The range of effects has something to please everybody, whatever theory they embrace.
T J McNamara
Jewellery long ago took over from ceramics as the dominant craft/dec. arts discipline of interest. The principal reason being that jewellery is still taught at tertiary level in many/most tertiary institutions around the country. Ceramics only has Otago as extant tertiary institution and news on that front is also portentous… more later. An institutionally based tertiary course is still the most complete method for learning – here are the experienced and qualified teachers on tap, here is the library, here are the facilities and abilities to research beyond the dimensions regularly encountered, here are those students from different years also making in a completely different style/genre/medium as stimulus…. and so on.
But, to return to T.J., his ‘prone to tend to ceramic sculpture’ bit irritated particularly as he seems to regard ‘the pottery movement’ as a 20thC phenomenon with no history. The figurative preceded vessels by a long period and while it has not been a large part of ceramic expression in this country, neither has the functional vessel been much in evidence for quite a while. Our ceramics is dominated by the decorative – traditionally a smaller area of expression and, when looking at the long view of our history, fairly recent. While I don’t expect much verification that art reviewers understand a lot about our medium/expression, T.J. has been reviewing for about fifty years now and we might expect that he has seen his share of ceramics shows during that time and be capable of demonstrating greater knowledge than this.