Who doesn’t love a bit of bling?
When I say “a bit” I mean 300 pieces, enough to keep Kim and Kayne happy, maybe. Beyond Bling is a gorgeous and at times moving exhibition. The display includes pieces hidden in the W.A. State Art Collection, along with treasures from guest collectors. Ranging from subtle trinkets to bold adornments, the exhibition will leave you wondering what your jewellery says about you.
Nine months in the making the exhibition is spread over both levels of the art gallery.
“It’s like a treasure hunt”, said exhibition co-curator Melissa Harpley. “These exhibits highlight a body of works that provoke thought and delight, with themes ranging from the organic, to the architectural, to the use of everyday items, to work created to keep private memory intact – or to draw the eyes of the crowd.”
First to catch my eye were the historic pieces from antiquarian expert Trevor Hancock. Hancock has been lovingly looking after these stunning pieces in his shop, the oldest antique store in Australia. I’ve always been intrigued by the exquisite little pieces forged by the early gold rush fossickers. Spending months away from loved ones, they’d fashion their finds into brooches, in the hope of allaying any fears of waning love. Dating back to the 1800s the exhibition includes an unassuming pair of men’s cuff-links that predate the well-known Kalgoorlie gold era.
Perth’s King of Bling
At the other end of the spectrum, is the epitome of bling from Perth’s “King of Bling”, Shane Pavlinovich. Tucked underneath the spiral staircase, bespoke pieces sparkle with pearls and other jewels. It’s no wonder Pavlinovich’s passport officially lists him as the Duke of Pearl. I was lucky enough to grab a quick word and photo with Shane before the parade featuring his pieces began.
Nearby is a collection of silver classics from George Jensen. Growing up Jensen’s work was something we could only dream of. It was wonderful to drool over so many in the one place.
Main Beyond Bling exhibition space
Upstairs in the main exhibition area I was drawn to the first display case. Inside was a range of mourning jewellery. These poignant pieces deserve to be lingered over. To gain the full impact viewers need to slow down and take the time to read each description card. Some have lilies of the valley symbols, some pieces of hair, still others keep their secrets tucked away inside. I was surprised to hear that while many of these pieces were commissioned by family members, others were ordered by the person prior to their own death. With this in mind, the lockets that have an eye image on the front were a bit of a worry. Harpley shed some light on their meaning.
“They could mean that someone is looking after them, watching over them. Or maybe they are making sure you don’t get up to mischief,” explained Harpley.
Then there are the more contemporary pieces made from local materials, polished stones and found objects. As pieces of wearable art they often came with a message. One example was the work of busy mother, teacher and artist, Brenda Ridgewell. Desperate to carve out a piece of time for herself, her pieces were said to act as a barrier between herself and others, a way of keeping people at bay.
In this room, final year jewellery design students from Curtin University will show their graduation pieces. The university’s fashion students will show their work on December 2nd.
The WA State Art Collection display features a variety of eminent artists including designs from Geoffrey Allen, Mari Funaki, Eugenie Keefer Bell, David Walker and Helen Britton. As AGWA curator Robert Cook said …
“Jewellery is the most intimate of art forms – a bridge between our bodies and the rest of the world – the rings we wear, the necklaces, the earrings, the nose rings, the bracelets, they frame us, add accents. And they bring the eye of a friend, lover – or even a stranger – to rest upon us. Jewellery exists in the domain of desire, a heightened form of non-verbal communication that flickers through the private and public realm.”
The exhibition got me thinking about jewellery differently. That night I made a considered necklace choice, instead of the usual throwing on anything before racing out the door. I’m sure it will get you thinking too. What does your jewellery say about you? Does it act as a barrier to keep people away, or a talking point to draw them in? Does it convey a message of loyalty to a missing loved one? Or is it a way to show off your body?
If you loved The Rise of Sneaker Culture make sure you don’t miss this follow up exhibition.
Beyond Bling Jewellery Exhibition At AGWA
Where: Art Gallery of WA
When: October 13 to January 14, 2018
For more information go to artgallery.wa.gov.au