Fifty Pieces of Gold
These are exciting times for artist goldsmiths. The metal has always has a special resonance: you only have to think of the world-wide excitement when the treasures of Ur in Mesopotamia, or of Tutankhamun in Egypt, were excavated by Leonard Woolley and Howard Carter between the wars. The metal has a unique lustre and lasts forever, and in this splendid exhibition we can see its beauty. But today, our younger artists are helping us to define gold more precisely.
In this exhibition of fifty specially made pieces in 18ct and 22ct, what we notice is its versatility. We will enjoy Breon O’Casey’s rough sculptural jewellery from Cornwall, Wendy Ramshaw’s intricate geometric structures from London, Maria Hanson’s fabulous bodywear from Sheffield, or Peter Chang’s clashing flat planes in feather-light gold leaf from Glasgow, and there are many others to satisfy every taste.
We can assess an astonishing achievement. I remember when I was Chairman of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain, now Contemporary Applied Arts, we gave an exhibition to Gerda Flockinger. She showed many flavours of her art and the public impact was surprising. Painters and artists loved it. But some craftsmen were suspicious because in those days nearly thirty years ago, enterprise was rare, almost no jewellery was taught at art schools, there were almost no artist jewellers: Gerda was one of the first.
This interesting exhibition hints at the birth and development of British art jewellery as a respected medium, and establishes how this new craft has suddenly burgeoned all over the country. Percy Street is temporarilry “thick inlaid with patines of bright gold”. Shakespeare was a notable gold bug. Let us allow him to be our guide.
Graham Hughes 1998
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