Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Unexpected Pleasures

I finally made my way down to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the much talked about contemporary jewellery exhibition Unexpected Pleasures, and was not disappointed. Curated by Dr Susan Cohn for the Design Museum, London, it is a comprehensive survey exhibition showcasing jewellery from the beginnings of the contemporary jewellery movement in the mid-20th century all the way up to works made this year. Tucked away in a corner of the ground floor of the NGV, almost hidden behind the bathrooms, the show might be hard to find but it's a gem once you get there. Round glass display cases highlight larger neckpieces on one side of the room, with similar flat glass-topped enclosures filled with smaller treasures set up on the other side.

The exhibition appears to be designed as an introduction to contemporary jewellery for those who may not be familiar with the discipline, and it successfully showcases a range of works from different countries, decades, methods of working and concepts. Works are grouped into themes that introduce the breadth of the field, such as materiality, memory, commemoration, new materials and techniques, narrative, and experimentation. A description of each themed group is displayed with each case, along with details of the work.

image of laminated rose neckpiece by Gijs Bakker (foreground)

A separate section focuses on the beginnings of the contemporary jewellery movement and definitions of contemporary jewellery, including a discussion of the notions of Art, Craft, Fashion and Design, with works dating to the early days of contemporary jewellery illustrating how these concepts are defined and intertwined.

image of neckpiece of coloured plastic legs by Lisa Walker

As an introductory look at contemporary jewellery for an audience who may be unfamiliar with the movement, its origins, themes, methods and development, Unexpected Pleasures offers a clear, comprehensive overview of the field, and it's always good to see contemporary jewellery attracting a wider audience. For those of us who are already familiar with this work, it's a good opportunity to see works we may have seen in books but never in person, as well as a chance to see new works by makers both familiar and unfamiliar to us.

image of Camilla Prasch, MEGA 2009, from exhibition media, National Gallery of Victoria

I was delighted by the bubbling seed-pearl necklace by Sam Tho Duong, maker of a similar neckpiece shown in Schmuck 2009, which was shown at RMIT Gallery. There is beautiful enamel work by Christine Graf and Jamie Bennett, embroidered silver narrative brooches by Esther Knobel, and tiny whimsical creatures by Andy Gut, to name a few of the dozens of impressive works in the show.

Unexpected Pleasures is a must-see if you're in Melbourne. The exhibition runs until 26 August, and entry is free. 
image of Sally Marsland, Flat Colour, from exhibition media, National Gallery of Victoria

No comments:

Post a Comment