Jewellery is so much more than something pretty to wear, or a shorthand indicator of personality, status or wealth, says Professor Norman Cherry.
As curator of the Transplantation exhibition of British and Australian narrative jewellery, which opens at the QCA Galleries in December, Cherry says that jewellery contains layers of hidden meaning and is a 'portable, wearable form of art'.
Transplantation brings together 12 contemporary jewellery artists from the UK and Australia, handpicked by Cherry for their ability to draw on and interpret their own experiences of 'transplantation'.
The artists use materials ranging from the semi-precious to the utterly ordinary and, in some cases, they even pick up discarded kerbside-collection type objects to explore the creative possibilities of 'worthlessness'.
For example, Roseanne Bartley first started working with the keys and strikers she'd plucked off discarded typewriters. Then, she set ice cream sticks, bottle tops and other sorts of rubbish you'd see on the street into brooches and necklaces. For Transplantation, she has transformed plastic bits and bobs into necklaces which bring to mind Pacific stick charts (used to navigate swells, islands and reefs in pre-map days).
Curator Norman Cherry's From Spalding to Kangaroo Bay. Artist image.
Meanwhile, Anna Davern brings to life old biscuit tins or trays printed with photographic images by reassembling them in fresh ways. She thus re-appropriates kitsch souvenirs, while offering today's viewers a kick of whimsy. 'The use of recycled materials reflects a history of economy employed by the earlier European settlers of Australia,' she explains. For Transplantation, Davern has constructed creatures resembling an Antipodean Where the Wild Things Are.
Cherry says the smallest of jewellery items can store history, memory and experience in a way that a painting on canvas or a sculpture in clay simply cannot. That makes it 'probably the most exciting of today's art forms', he says.
Part of Jack Cunningham's Great Barrier series. Artist image.