3 August 2014

Sustainable decoration: Artisan’s Greensmith exhibition

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

Marshall Mcluhan famously coined the phrase, “the medium is the message”. Meaning, that in fact the medium to communicate a message can be more impactful than the content of a message itself.

Artisan’s Greensmith exhibition is a collaboration between Queensland and Californian jewellers. The pieces all have the underlying unifying themes of sustainability, environmental consciousness and preservation.

Of course, the medium to express those concepts is through jewellery – from intricate silver adornments to large plastic sculptural neckpieces.

And in this case it seems that the medium is as important as the message. As if this didacticism needs to be seen in this form – that the destructive practices of humanity can be better understood through something beautiful and yet sustainable.

Kathleen Hunt’s serpentine neckpiece is featured in the exhibition. It effortlessly drapes across the mannequin but also sits with rigid structure.

For Kathleen, the jewellery itself is crucial in expressing an idea.

“Now we tend to virtually adorn ourselves with trophies – essentially, don’t we?

“‘Look what I’ve got, and my watch, and my gorgeous earrings and my this and my that.’ So I’m actually turning that around and rather than saying, ‘this is a trophy’, saying, ‘now well this is what we’ve done and we have to wear the consequences of it’.”

The sculptural piece is created primarily through deconstructed coat hangers.

“My sister works in retail and she kept bringing home these beautiful Birchwood coat hangers.

“And the thing about these hangers is because they had a name on them, they didn’t even hit the racks in the shops, they were just used for transportation and then they were discarded.”

In fact, each year around eight billion coat hangers are produced – enough to fill the Empire State Building more than four times. Kathleen’s practice draws attention to this gross waste and overproduction. Yet her piece is beautiful, which is somewhat contradictory as the iridescent gleam of the hangers is a result of the heavy metal used to create them – chrome. It’s as if artificial beauty is inherently noxious.

Kathleen is intent on keeping her materials as raw as possible. In fact, the naturalness of the manufactured products is enhanced by the Fibonacci pattern seen throughout nature, which is used in her neckpiece.

“I won’t force the material to do anything that isn’t in its nature and I think if we look throughout our landscape and took the same approach, things would be different.

“If we stopped forcing our environment to be something that it’s not.”

Kathleen’s sculpture, along with all the other artists at Greensmith highlights the environmental degradation caused by humanity’s insatiable consumption. And the message is in the medium – the works prove that not only can jewellery be sustainable, but it proves the ugliness of mass consumption.

As Kathleen says: “I think that’s the job of the artist – to notice change and to bring it to attention.”


No comments:

Post a Comment