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Australian Jewelry Topos

Posted by learntobead on April 3, 2011

Australian Jewelry Topos


A recent lecture and discussion by Robert Baines on  the relationship of jewelry to place in Australia.

“This exciting exhibition brings together eighteen young Australian artists, all graduates of the Gold and Silvermithing Department at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. The theme of topos, place, is explored through a diverse and fascinating group of jewelry objects. Place includes locations in the physical world, such as homes and public squares, crowded cities and untouched forests. Place can also refer to states of mind, webs of memory and association, and other metaphorical spaces. Drawing on traditional and non-traditional materials and techniques, the artists featured in this exhibition challenge viewers to deepen their understanding of places we inhabit.

Participating artists are Katherine Brunacci, Robert Baines, Elfrun Lach, Anita Van Doorn, Dougal Haslem, Julie Mitchell, Karla Way, Dr. Kirsten Haydon, Lucy Hearn, Mel Miller, Natalia Milosz-Piekarska, Nicholas Bastin, Nina Oikawa, Penelope Pollard, Renee Ugazio, Linda Hughes, Christopher Earl Milbourne and Nicole Polentas.”


““Jewelry is a bearer of cultural and historical meaning and memory. In particular it is concerned with the relations of those meanings with the personal and urban settings, acting as a way of defining and interpreting ‘topos’ (meaning ‘of place’, Greek). The concern of this jewelry research is to recognise and explore the ways the jewelry artefact opens our engagement with, and understanding of, the personal and external places we inhabit. Jewelry conveys settings of human identity and presence as well as external settings such as urban spaces and ‘topos’ takes on a broader significance as place itself becomes an expanded notion. Jewelry Topos explores the ways jewelry engages with our understanding of the physical and metaphorical places we inhabit.”                                            Professor Robert Baines


The design question here is to what extent is an artist able to create a piece of wearable, fashionable jewelry that also conveys the artist’s personal relationship and understanding of a place?     Can the artist accomplish this without, either bursting way outside the boundaries of something “wearable”, or reducing the “meanings” to such a symbolic level that they no longer convey what was on the artist’s mind?


How familiar does the viewer (or wearer) have to be of the Australian place references for the artist and his or her jewelry to be judged successful?   Or does it not matter?

Looking at these pieces, what do you think?      How successful or satisfying are these pieces?     I think all of these have artistic merit, but not necessarily “artistic jewelry” merit.     Jewelry as art is only art as it is worn.

How has the artist manipulate the aesthetic to achieve a sense of place?

How has the artist manipulated materials to achieve a sense of place?

How has the artist manipulate techniques to achieve a sense of place?




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