Applied Arts : JEMposium: The art of jewellery
It is not what one expects of a pearl necklace: the pearls are there, certainly, and strung delicately in a row, but there is no escapingthe fact that they are draped around the preserved body of a mouse which has been cast into a block of acrylic. ‘Princess’, by Dutch artist Ted Noten, was made in 1995 but remains a confronting piece of conceptual jewellery. The design purposefully demands the viewer’s judgement on who wears the better piece: the owner or the mouse?
Noten is one of five acclaimed artists and jewellery designers who will be in Wellington in February as keynote speakers for JEMposium. As a jewellery symposium designed to examine the potent mix of fine art, conceptual thought, and the form of jewellery, JEMposium celebrates those artists who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of ideas.
From 10th to 13th of February 2012 contemporary jewellers, collectors, curators, and critics will descend on Wellington for four days of discussion and working development. The city can expect an influx of jewellery and art enthusiasts, and locals can make the most of supporting exhibitions in galleries throughout the capital. Not just an event for artists, says Phillipa O’Sullivan of Quoil Gallery, but “a fantastic opportunity for Wellington to see some amazing jewellery.”
As well as a range of practical activities, like the Pin Swap Soiree, an academic element ties the days together. There are three main topics of discussion, two relating to the complex relationship between material anddesign, and the third on modern means of distribution – from traditional galleries to new and alternative approaches. The last subject is of particular relevance to a gallery like Quoil in the age of the internet, but O’Sullivan believes firmly in the continuing role of the gallery.
“We do sell a lot online, but it remains steady and it hasn’t gone up exponentially. We’ve sent pieces to Russia and all over the world, but people walking in the door are predominantly our sales.” There is the loyalty aspect, too: “They know – hopefully, anyway – that they’ll find something here they fall in love with.”
While some parts of JEMposium are closed to a group of selected artists – like the masterclass which takes place on the final day – many events will be open to an interested public. With a mix of themed presentations, panel-led discussion and Pecha Kucha, the symposium is an ideal environment to introduce new audiences to the artistic discipline. Sitting beneath the mantle of contemporary art, contemporary jewellery can risk seeming inaccessible.
“I think the biggest thing is that people don’t realise that contemporary jewellery has an art basis,” says O’Sullivan. “When they see it they might think, ‘how would you wear that?’ – and that’s their first thought. But in my experience, even with some of the out-there pieces that we’ve had here over the years, people really do appreciate it. Whether or not it’s wearable, you could still admire the craftsmanship, and the ideas behind it.”