Preview

Congratulations to Swiss jeweller David Bielander for winning the 2016 Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery. In addition to an $8000 cash prize, his winning piece, Cardboard, 2015, will be acquired for the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. This destination is appropriate bearing in mind that contemporary jewellery emerged during the 20th century and, in many ways, it has more in common with the art movements it developed alongside than with the precocious baubles of earlier ages.

In fact, several artists who are better known for their sculptures or paintings have also made jewellery, including Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali and Damien Hirst (who, incidentally, is being sued by the not as famous artist Colleen Wolstenholme who claims that some of his designs bear a suspicious resemblance to hers). And like good contemporary art, good contemporary jewellery is a sign of the times.

“I think it is the job of the contemporary jeweller (or painter, or artist in any medium) to be kind of like a sponge,” explains Catherine Truman, one of the best known and most respected contemporary jewellers in Australia.

“To be relevant, to make meaningful work, it is best to be connected, not only with the trends throughout various genres but to be very connected with your environment, both the political environment and physical environment: environments on lots of different levels.”

In our hyper-real world, we are constantly bombarded by loaded images released by the monomaniacal whims of the mass media. But Truman points out that there are more subtle, alternative ways of gathering intel. “Another way of getting information, and a much more nuanced way, is through artworks that allow you to step into the gap and do some thinking for yourself; those are the successful ones.”

This last may provide a clue as to what Truman was looking for in her role as one of three judges of the 2016 Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery. The biennial prize is open to both Australian and international jewellers. This year 35 finalists, including Melbourne-based jeweller Sarah Johnston who won the $2000 Emerging Award, were selected from 14 countries. And they all understand that if you have something to say, jewellery is a viable way to spread the word. As Truman says, “The body has always been a very potent exhibition space.” Portability and wearability are unique attributes of the genre. Jewellery may be small, but it gets around.

Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery
Gallery Funaki
23 August – 24 September

Tracey Clement