Blog 27, January 20th, 2019
This iteration of the HandShake project has finished and it time to think back over the past two years and what my involvement has meant.
Personally the project has stimulated an added impetus to make, a renewed energy and long hours in the studio. Outside HandShake my practice, which often pairs performative or interactive elements with jewellery/objects does not fit readily into either commercial or public galleries and means it can be difficult to sustain. Of particular satisfaction was the need to spend time in research – having some knowledge about the various discourses that underpin and help to contextualise the work I do is important.
The pre-arranged exhibition schedule meant a need embrace a rapid turn-around of ideas into making which has been a challenging and interesting process. I enjoyed the move to different materials and the complete change in direction of the work I produced – from combinations of kitchen bakewear with pieces of silver plate, to taking the shelves used for the first exhibition and turning them into jewellery, to raiding builders’ skips for materials for the series of house brooches. This drive to produce resolved work much more quickly replaced my normal methodology – usually my ideas percolate, shifting between the conscious and unconscious some time before I feel they are resolved sufficiently to bring either into a proposal or reality.
I value immensely the conversations with my mentor Benjamin Lignel, a man of formidable knowledge, and cherished the rare times when I contributed an artist or idea that was new to him. His experience as a maker, curator and writer working across the design and fine art disciplines meant he was well equipped to critique my work and thinking. Perhaps at times my changes in direction puzzled and frustrated him, but he always offered support, excellent research suggestions and valuable insights as well as useful and sometimes challenging questions about intention, materiality and context. A topic that recurred was the question of how an audience would understand my work and we debated how much information it was necessary to disclose and how best to manage the issue of not becoming didactic. Ben, based in Europe, but also with commitments in North America has a wide understanding and experience of current exhibition practice and contemporary jewellery which informed his questions and allowed me a more considered response in both making and showing.
Tanel Veenre’s masterclass at the beginning of HandShake 4 was a perfect introduction to working cooperatively through all the details that support a successful show. The tasks he set helped us realise there would be decisions that might be difficult to resolve, and he guided us gently through managing them. I believe we learned the importance of the precious nature of both the opportunity and all the people involved in the project. It is a fact of life that when there are twelve artists with completely different aesthetics in one show, individual desires might need to be modified for a better overall outcome. Tanel’s thoughtful nature and way of working has been an inspiration throughout the two years.
The HandShake project, brainchild of Peter Deckers, with brilliant support from Hilda Gascard and the support of CNZ and Whitereia NZ, has built the profile of New Zealand contemporary jewellery to an unprecedented level and importantly developed a widening group of articulate and increasingly innovative and active jewellers across the country. I’m grateful for the chance to be part of this programme.
The featured image is Shelter, my work for Polarity.