The silver bridge across the ditch

The work on the book about Australian and New Zealand jewellery continues now with an evening at Objectspace in Auckland. I gave an outline of rich and poor craft in Australia, while co-author Damian Skinner gave a response from a New Zealand perspective. Damian queried the essentialism in the way I had associated silver a medium of authenticity in the work of Marian Hosking. There was a considerable and engaged audience that joined in the discussion, which ranged from specifics about the rich/poor binary to the very question of categorisation itself.

The work continued the next day with a visit to the jewellery collection of the Auckland War Memorial and Museum. Here I am with Damian Skinner, Warwick Freeman and the collection technician Anne Harlow. It was an amazing opportunity to see at first hand (albeit with surgical gloves) the masterworks of recent NZ jewellery, from the first experiments with paua shell to the sophisticated use of mediated materials like photography.

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This was followed by a meeting of local jewellers at Warwick Freeman’s to discuss the book. It was heartening to listen to the warm support for our venture and many interesting questions were raised. Given the difference in size between the two jewellery scenes, the question of equity was raised. Warwick said that the book is about becoming less parochial for New Zealanders, while for Australians it is about being more parochial. There’s a grain of truth in that. Areta Wilkinson suggested perhaps there should be some parity based on ratio of sheep.

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Areta’s show Waka Huia at Anna Bibby Gallery consists of a baroque sideboard whose shelves contain metal objects related to the life of her great great grandfather Teone Taare TIkao to Herries Beattie. The mostly silver objects are made with great care and their variety testifies to the incredible life of their subject.

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Meanwhile, on the inauthentic side, a collective of New Zealand  jewellers call Weeds invited guest jewellers into an installation at Masterworks. The monumental sideboard here was replaced by a heap of garden chairs, each of which contain it its seat quite exquisite work as you might find under a rock somewhere. There was work by Fran Allison, Roseanne Bartley, Renee Bevan, David Bielander, Andrea Daly, Sharon Fitness, Shelley Norton and Lisa Walker.

There’s such an abundance of innovative jewellery in New Zealand, I don’t think there’s any question of finding a scene that can balance that of Australia. The challenge is to find something with equivalent focus in the wide brown land.

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