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IMG_6750In case you haven’t noticed, con­tem­por­ary New Zea­l­and jew­ellery is sen­sa­tion­al. I don’t mean Michael Hill’s dia­mond rings; I mean jew­ellery made by con­tem­por­ary jew­ellers. And right now, con­tem­por­ary jew­ellery is going off (to use a surf metaphor).

This is evid­ent in our own city, with two gal­ler­ies devoted to jew­ellery — Avid and Quoil — both of which show work by jew­ellers from around the coun­try. Bowen Gal­lery and Ham­ish McKay Gal­lery also rep­res­ent a couple of con­tem­por­ary jew­ellers. Then there’s The Nation­al in Christ­ch­urch and Fin­gers in Auckland.

The Whitireia jew­ellery course, along with a hand­ful of sim­il­ar courses in oth­er centres, is pro­du­cing some inter­est­ing jew­ellers. Peter Deck­ers, who leads the course, has recently ini­ti­ated the second round of Hand­shake — a ment­or­ing pro­gramme in which 12 emer­ging jew­ellers get to work with a ment­or of their choice. The excit­ing news for them is that a good num­ber of the rock stars of the con­tem­por­ary jew­ellery world have agreed to be involved.

Last year, the 12 jew­ellers of the first Hand­shake pro­ject were invited to exhib­it at the world’s most prom­in­ent jew­ellery sym­posi­um, Schmuck, in Munich. This year, New Zea­l­and was again rep­res­en­ted at Schmuck, this time with the exhib­i­tion Wun­der­ruma. Wolfgang Lösche, the dir­ect­or of Galer­ie Handwerk in Munich, invited War­wick Free­man and Karl Fritsch, an expat Ger­man now res­id­ent in New Zea­l­and, to cur­ate the exhib­i­tion, which fea­tures the work of 75 New Zea­l­and jewellers.

Karl and War­wick vis­ited stu­di­os, gal­ler­ies and museums across New Zea­l­and and along the way talked to jew­ellers. The res­ult­ing exhib­i­tion, sup­por­ted and toured to Munich by the Dowse Art Museum, offers a snap­shot of New Zea­l­and jew­ellery now — and the two jew­ellers’ sense of where it has come from.

Karl and War­wick chose works based on their own views about New Zea­l­and jew­ellery and avoided includ­ing rep­res­ent­at­ive or sig­na­ture works. But they did include pieces by a couple of well-known New Zea­l­and artists not usu­ally thought of as jew­ellers, along with a selec­tion of taonga and his­tor­ic­al works. As Dowse dir­ect­or Court­ney John­ston says in the fore­word to the exhib­i­tion cata­logue, “we have been greeted by both old friends and sur­pris­ing inclu­sions”. The cur­at­ors’ approach has been con­tro­ver­sial with­in the jew­ellery com­munity but it makes for an inter­est­ing show nonetheless.

You can make your own assess­ment of their choices when you vis­it the exhib­i­tion at the Dowse, where it’s cur­rently on show (21 June to 28 Septem­ber). Since the dir­ect­or­ship of James Mack in the early 1990s, the Dowse has been one of the few nation­al insti­tu­tions to col­lect con­tem­por­ary jew­ellery with any ser­i­ous­ness, and as Court­ney also says in the cata­logue fore­word, it “feels like the nat­ur­al home for a pro­ject of this scope and significance”.


July Art

Cur­rently at the Adam Art Gal­lery (27 May to 21 Septem­ber) is an exhib­i­tion called What is a life?, which sur­veys the works of Duned­in artist Kim Pieters. Kim is reg­u­larly seen in Wel­ling­ton with exhib­i­tions at the Bowen Gal­lery and is best known for her del­ic­ate abstract paint­ings. She is also a musi­cian and vocal­ist, and has been involved in the exper­i­ment­al music scene in Duned­in since mov­ing there in 1993. She has played in vari­ous ensembles whose per­form­ances have often included her mov­ing-image pro­jec­tions. This exhib­i­tion brings togeth­er all the facets of Kim’s prac­tice, includes draw­ings, pho­to­graphs, sculp­tures and mov­ing-image soundscapes.[/info]

Mary-Jane Duffy

Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essayist, and FishHead's art columnist. She teaches poetry and academic writing on the Whiyireia Creative Writing programme, torturing students with half-rythmes and pantoums, zombie haiku, and line breaks, referencing and structure. Duffy has a background in museum and gallery work, making a lucky escape from the basement of the City Gallery Wellington in 2002 and opening the Mary Newtown Gallery with Paula Newtown in 2004. Art (across all the disciplines) feels like the closest thing she has to religious experiences - seeing, reading or hearing things that make her brain fizz.

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