Australian Financial Review, 29 August 2014
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Paris is renowned for high fashion, with the world’s leading couturiers presenting their extraordinary creations each season. But when it comes to contemporary jewellery, it’s Australians who truly shine.
Recognition may have taken considerably more time had it not been for the efforts of Diana Morgan , who has been collecting Australian and New Zealand contemporary jewellery since the 1970s. “Our designers communicate the intense joy of being alive in an extremely complex world," Morgan says.
Morgan introduced directors and curators at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to Australian contemporary jewellery in 1999. “Every time I go to Paris, I bring with me another six to eight jewellers who may interest them as part of their permanent jewellery collections." The museum now has the work of a number of Australian and New Zealand jewellers in its cabinets. While Morgan continues to bring designers to the museum’s attention, she was also asked to curate an exhibition of contemporary jewellery from Down Under at 19 Paul Fort, a privately run gallery near Porte d’Orléans, as part of a festival dedicated to decorative arts.
In a house-like environment spread over three levels, the gallery used Japanese furniture from the 1930s and photos taken by leading French photographer Gerard Uferas, as backdrops for the jewellery. On display was the work of jewellers Robert Baines, Julie Blyfield, Helen Britton, Simon Cottrell, Sally Marsland, Bin Dixon-Ward, Marian Hosking, Carlier Makigawa, Lousje Skala, Linda Hughes and Warwick Freeman, to name just a few of the 30 designers represented. Timed for the opening of Paris Fashion Week, the 19 Paul Fort exhibition drew interest not only from locals but from visitors from England and the United States. “People’s eyes were wide open. You could see the delight on their faces," Morgan says. Olivier Gabet, director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, was equally impressed.
“Olivier wants to build on the current collection, saying he would dedicate an entire display cabinet to contemporary jewellery from Down Under."
Morgan attributes the success of the Australian and New Zealand jewellery to the ability to read the artist’s mind in the work presented. Skala’s three-dimensional printed aluminium bracelets appear as both a desirable piece of jewellery and as a powerful object in their own right.
According to Morgan “there are the highly technical designers, such as Bin Dixon-Ward and Linda Hughes, whose work sometimes invites comparison to artist Jeffrey Smart. But there are also more ecological jewellers, such as Julie Blyfield and Marian Hosking. But they all show an exuberance that’s not found anywhere else in the world."
Julie Blyfield says: “I hand-make every item of my jewellery, investing hours of time to conceive and resolve each piece. The symbolism, the material value, the investment of time and the potential for a piece of jewellery to be handed down from one generation to the next imbues each piece with an innate sense of preciousness. For me, time is precious!"
Katie Scott, director of Gallery Funaki in Melbourne, also appreciates the unique position Australian and New Zealand jewellers occupy on the world stage. “There’s not a particular locality that’s evident in the work. But there’s a distinct quality that can be seen in each design. Part of the success can also be attributed to the training contemporary jewellers receive, as well as the number of galleries which showcase their work," Scott says.
Australia and New Zealand are quietly establishing a reputation for being at the vanguard of contemporary jewellery. “The French don’t have the same history when it comes to contemporary jewellery. But showcasing our designers in Paris is certainly giving them a feeling of the breadth and depth of its existence Down Under," Morgan adds.
Crafti, S 2014 ‘Aussie jewellers dazzle Paris’, Australian Financial Review, 29 August 2014, <http://www.afr.com/p/lifestyle/life_leisure/aussie_jewellers_dazzle_paris_ecOsMN4gZugHpMGMonZeUM>