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This course is also run by Dutch designer Herman Hermsen, and involves the design and execution of an exhibition of student work – small-scale series production available for sale. Part of the theory behind this exhibition is that during times of economic instability, buyers are less likely to invest in expensive, one-off artworks, while simultaneously being skeptical of mass-produced goods from large-scale manufacturers.
For the maker, this opens up a niche – handmade pieces from independent designers at a reasonable price point are now more desirable to the market.
The exhibition has 9 student participants, mostly final-year or masters students (which makes me more than amateur…) who are each developing their own marketable range of products – wearables, accessories or decor pieces.
So how can we make a coherent exhibition out of this broad range of work? It seems that the contemporary jewellery scene is the only place where it is commonplace to exhibit production pieces. Of course, the dichotomy of exhibiting jewellery is that it almost negates the function of the pieces themselves — what is a piece of jewellery if it is behind glass, without a body, a wearer, a life? It becomes and empty object, the dialogue of the piece is changed, overlooked.
To me, these pieces need to communicate something about their context. For me, there is a constant struggle to justify my making production pieces in a world that is already flooded with products. Empty objects, only given purpose by the consumer, to be returned to emptiness once the next-gen designs appear.
In order to deal with these anxieties, I find myself drawn to forgotten objects as a basis for my work. Jewellery, being a highly personal and communicative medium, seems an apt place for re-contextualising these ‘lost’ objects. At the same time as making production pieces, I want to subvert the concept of mass-production itself. But how?
For the last 3 years or so, I’ve been working on an ongoing production series of ‘Teacup rings’. These rings are constructed from the handles of second-hand melamine teacups which were in production in Australia between the 1950s-1970s. During this time, melamine was a fashionable material for kitchenalia, picnic ware and crockery. I buy the cups from op-shops, garage sales and estate sales. Each wearable piece is hand-carved and unique. The shapes in the pieces reference the original lines of the products from which they are derived, as well as the natural movements of my tools when I carve. If you are interested, the pieces are available from Workshop Bilk.
I’ve decided I will keep working along this theme, using vintage plastics from abandoned mass-produced objects. Aesthetically, I like the concept of referencing the original forms. I have begun a few experiments, but more on that soon.
I’m also in charge of the graphic design/marketing team for this exhibition, this means there’ll be logo/identity design, packaging, promotional material, website and installation work to follow, too.
Joshua Davis is a New York-based artist/designer/graphismo who (among other things) uses generative code to create digital compositions of incredible complexity and individuality.
Davis’ element of the works involved the creation of drawn elements based on images of dissections from a 1908 book called “Types of Floral Mechanics”, which were fed into a generative algorithm, creating highly intricate digital illustrations, some of which were used for hi-res digital inkjet prints, and others printed onto transfers which were applied to the vases during the firing process.
The vases were created by Commonwealth using Maya (a 3D modelling program) and a stereolithographic 3D print of the object was created, in order to derive a mould for slip-casting.
The resulting objects are a collision of technology and organic form, reminiscant of grafted plants and fractal divisions. The sheer materiality of the porcelain and the soft, nature-derived colour scheme of Davis’ illustration makes the works immediately inviting, defying the usual cold preconception of digitally-derived objects.
Interestingly, Davis’ use of colour is actually derived from nature. In an interview on the Apple – Pro website, Davis states,
“I take a lot of digital photographs just to extract color. I go to an arboretum here on Long Island at different points in the year and take pictures of the orchid show or the Christmas poinsettias. Nature does a pretty good job of blending. You’ll get a flower that starts with green, goes up to yellow, and blooms red. So already I’ve got a red, a yellow, and a green that all complement each other…
I take that image and run it through this program I’ve created, and say, ”Okay, extract the top 16 colors.” So now I have a range of colors extracted out of the image that I blended. The most complex color set I’ve done was 74 colors, and the average is 32.”
I find this idea of ‘digital materiality’ really compelling, especially in the forms of object design and wearables. Commonwealth describe themselves as “harnessing a new fluidity applicable to both the brutality of Architecture and the minutia of the graphic arts” as a point of departure for their design firm. This philosophy reminds me of one of my favourite projects by Dutch wunderkind Dinie Besems.
Tropism via Generator.x
Before Damien Hirst pave-set a platinum skull, there was Fiona Hall.
Hall’s work explores social, political, environmental and economic concerns through a a diverse range of media including photography, sculpture, painting, installation. Hall exalts everyday objects and simultaneously subverts the plastic economies from which they emerge.
I found this exhibiton really inspiring and insightful. Hall’s often tongue-in-cheek approach to serious issues is really accessible, her works don’t drown in obscure meaning or pretentiousness.
Go and see it!
Also, keep your calendar free for Southern Exposure, featuring works from the San Diego MCA from the likes of Barbara Kruger, Ed Ruscha and Bill Viola. Runs from March 20 until June 1.