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Analysis of ‘Transplantation A sense of place and culture- British and Australian Narrative Jewellery’

Samuel O’Hana

Manchester, Samuel O’Hana, 2012

Code: A_038

Transplantation appears to function somewhat as a homecoming for artists like Norman Cherry and Jack Cunningham, who have arrived at a conceptual landmark on thinking with regards to migration and to the role of object-design in the 21st century. The work has a functional aesthetic; firstly to tell stories (as the artist’s statements are keen to point out) and secondly to serve as a caveat, warning the world of jewellery to the potential of the art-object to defy the impositions of its own genre and environment. Does this work seek to classify itself at all except within its own ideas? Narrative Jewellery, it seems, is a sapling growing healthily within the world of the contemporary crafts, but evading its aesthetic demands.

We can expect then, that as an exhibition which as Cherry says seeks to be ‘uncompromisingly modern’, the outcomes of working in this hybrid style of Narrative Jewellery are both intriguing and difficult. Understanding that objects have a natural story of their own, each of the artists have made intuitive selections of items, found and fabricated, that allow any relevant stories to arise without muffling their original voice. As the artist treats their cultural origins with authenticity, so too do they handle their materials as possessing their own narratological essence. It is in this respect we see that the theoretical consideration of narrative interacts with the concrete approaches and techniques of creative craft.

Within the considerations of craft, one can see another important duality in the decisions made with physical selection. The choice of materials in the pieces reflects an alchemical collage approach. Plastic and coral, biscuit tin and garnet; the found and the sought-after cohabit in many pieces where, most succesfully they show the validity of each person’s story as an ‘everything-except-the-obvious’ approach in order to put across a personal coherence, a revelation and a testimony, and ultimately a report on the highlights of the experience of cultural transplantation.

Perhaps the most pressing, urgent and demanding pieces deal with more than a simple dialogue between two places. The narrative jewellery that acknowledges a constellation of location reveals to us that the distance between our homeland and ourselves increases with any looking back. What brings the pilgrim close to his past is the engagement with the task at hand, be that of the physical journey or that of the creative process. Jack Cunningham’s pieces, with their juxtaposition of measurable and metaphoric distance makes clear that potent acts of creation are borne from a journey, primarily personal or specific, and with a genuine treatment or artistic process the message carries a communal, emblematic significance.

Transplantation is itself an exhibition of mobility that is a crucial development in within contemporary jewellery. Touring locations in England and Australia as if part of a strategic campaign, Norman Cherry’s conception of the travel cabinets containing flat pack display tables provides an efficiency and portability that gives the exhibition a rare quality of autonomy. They are the locus around which the whole milieu of Narrative Jewellery can swing into motion; the work does not simply tour- to be a true reflection of the artist’s migrational nature, the work must now go on its own journey, retracing the the footsteps of their creators, speaking continually of their created narrative.

Overall, Transplantation cites the moving targets of our modern world. An attempt to make cross-cultural communication is displayed in the work, arising from a desire to break out of a simple dialogue between what is remembered and what is known, pressing forward into what can be imagined that is emblematic of the universal. The public and personal memory of cultural transplantation is infused into a precious contemporary object to show how the terrain shifts under our feet as we go in the search for artefacts that evidence the journey to spectators, especially those interpreting the the work of these explorers.

At a more fundamental level the work helps us to understand the communal values of travel, exploration and creation of homeland through the artmaking process. The fusion of jewellery and narratology into this challenging style brings a touchable, cross-cultural value to stories and a historical relevance to the materials of the craftsman, in both cases dismissing their otherwise more transient, culture-specific limitations. Because words and precious metals are culture and region specific, the Transplantation exhibition of narrative jewellery should be lauded as both a triumph of interdisciplinary art practice and as forming the foundations of a manifesto for a modern global aesthetic.

Norman Cherry, Jivan Astfalck, Roseanne Bartley, Nicholas Bastin, Lin Cheung, Jack Cunningham, Anna Davern, Joungmee Do, Sheridan Kennedy, Bridie Lander, Jo Pond, Laura Potter.

Curated by Norman Cherry.

Bridie Lander, Necklace,
Bridie Lander
Necklace: The Grass is always Greener
Copper, sterling silver, enamel, silk cord
Photo by Electric Egg

Jack Cunningham, Brooch,
Jack Cunningham
Brooch: The Great Barrier (series)
Found objects
Photo by Electric Egg

Jo Pond, Necklace,
Jo Pond
Necklace: The Promise
Iron wire, tin, 18ct gold
Photo by Electric Egg

Joungmee Do, Brooch,
Joungmee Do
Brooch: Untitled
Steel, fine gold, fine silver
Photo by Electric Egg

Jivan Astfalck, Brooch, 2001
Jivan Astfalck
Brooch: Dear Jean she, 2001
Sterling silver, resin, paper
Photo by Electric Egg

Sheridan Kennedy, Object,
Sheridan Kennedy
Object: The Coral Mantis (Tantus Scapulus)
Coral, labradorite, pearls and silver
Photo by Electric Egg

Additional information

About the author:
I am an undergraduate English and Creative Writing student at the Centre for Modern Poetry in the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. I am in the early stages of developing a cross-cultural understanding of contemporary poetry and am hoping to lead integrated research and practice in that field. I reported on the Gray Area Symposium in Mexico in 2010 ( and more recently on electronic music events in the UK (


Coming Vuenues:

Bilston Craft Gallery, Wolverhampton- Present- 1st December
Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey- 8 Jan - 2 Mar 2013
Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey- 8 Mar - 21st April

Toowomba Regional Art Gallery, Queensland- July- September 2013

Curated by Professor Norman Cherry in conjunction with the Hub: National Centre for Craft & Design and the University of Lincoln.

>>> download the catalogue

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Commentary on ‘Transplantation A sense of place and culture- British and Australian Narrative Jewellery’
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