Jenny Du, Chris Ka Leung Li, Kimberley Peel, Judith Torzillo
Curated by Judith Torzillo
As its curator,' Valuable Remains', has been tricky and transformative. At first I imagined it might be a snapshot of emerging contemporary jewellers for an audience of emerging artists, a ‘first introduction’ to a field I knew well. Of course, as the show came together, what I thought I knew well turned on it’s head. I started to form a new idea of what connects these makers. For me there is a temporal link: that jewels, in whatever form they take, can encapsulate, present and provoke a moment in time.
But before all that, there were two main drivers for putting together this show. Firstly, I saw a lack of representation in contemporary art spaces for contemporary jewellery, art jewellery, studio jewellery – whatever you wish to call it. I wanted to show people the jewellery that artists make. It is born from ideas and experimentation. It changes the space around itself and asks questions of those experiencing it. Contemporary jewellery is a diverse field, but there are key themes that occur across the movement.
Contemporary jewellers often challenge the very definition of a ‘jewellery-object’, its materiality and context, interrogate notions of permanence, value, function, wearability and its relationship to the body –existing on the body, off the body, within the body or beyond it. Each of the artists included in Valuable Remains are beginning to develop their own individual ways for exploring these ‘essential’ qualities of jewellery.
The second reason to curate 'Valuable Remains' was excitement. I was excited by the work being made around me by emerging jewellers. The work is emotional and direct, drawing out personal experiences that invade your personal space, while in the same breath, inviting you into an intimate world of the artist.
This intimacy, both physical and emotional, is as powerful now as when
I first encountered the work. But, I have found a new appreciation for the connections between these artists, between us.
Each of us has focused on a moment, citing a specific temporal context. I see this stemming from a unique relationship that jewellers develop with ‘experience’. Jewellery is traditionally worn. It is contextualized not only by the body, but also by the action of wearing. So when this work affects a viewer or shapes their experience, and evokes or provokes a response – I believe that it has a lot to do with the event of wearing jewellery.
In Re-Fluff Yourself, Jenny Du has brought a shared but private experience into the public. She is giving us a moment in front of the mirror. We are asked to re-enact private practices, but Jenny has intervened with our options. Asking us to consider hair from all over the body as valuable and decorative, she gives us time to look and think about the often covered. We get a chance to put it on like beautiful and enjoyable decoration rather than take it off like something unwanted or shameful. Jenny is offering a chance to view our bodies through a new lens for the next time we’re in front of the mirror.
The origin of Chris Ka Leung Li’s work The Last Conversation was the passing of his grandfather. Despite this event occurring in the recent past, Chris is allowing us to see a very present connection. Chris’ process of layering and re-burning his work is a material revision that echoes his attempts to repair and resolve absent conversations with his grandfather. His division of the object through burning is raw catharsis. He has created two new pieces: his own corporeal jewel as memento and the trace, the ashes, of the jewel he has spiritually sent to his grandfather. This work speaks about the past, but it is telling us about how we live our present: it is our attempts, our efforts, which express our deepest emotions of love and regret. Chris burned and destroyed something valuable to create a new preciousness for the present.
There is also a new preciousness in Kimberley Peel’s In, out and around the bathtub: traces of you.
Kimberley preserves the lines of hair twirled in between fingers in the shower. These traces of daily rituals are a reminder of loved ones who share the intimate space. The debris of an ended relationship hangs off the wall, caught and cast as shadows against the projected image of her bathroom. Kimberley’s practice has increasingly involved projected light. She uses the elusive materiality of projected light, which can be seen but not touched, to describe the experience of remembering.
In my untitled work, there is an absence of jewellery, where shadows suggest it should be: on the wrist, finger and ear. This expectation is extrapolated from our own experiences of wearing. The process of remembering what something has felt like to wear can bring greater awareness to the body and skin in the present. The reduction of contextual cues provides space for viewers to feel, in-between the gaps. The images themselves forgo any attempt to distinguish temporal context. It is in the imagining that you draw your own past into the present.
This exhibition is a (small) sample of emerging contemporary jewellers in Sydney, it is by no means comprehensive, but it is a start.
-by Judith Torzillo