Curated by German-born, France-based artist Monika Brugger, A Bit of Clay on the Skin brings together work from 18 jewelry artists from around the world. The exhibition runs until Feb. 5 at the New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum and was organized by La Fondation Bernardaud, which is run by the Limoges luxury porcelain maker and seeks to enhance the profile of ceramics as a fine arts medium. The show opened at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City last year and will travel to Paris and Toronto.
Out of the artists represented by the exhibition, only one, Peter Hoogeboom, uses mainly ceramics in his creations. The Dutch artist’s work pioneered the use of ceramics in contemporary jewelry.
“I think he proved that you can work with ceramics and be avant-garde as well,” says Brugger. “He is completely trained as a jeweler and I think that is something very important. People trained as jewelers discover new materials and they have a completely different notion of what we can do.”
A collar made from rows of perfectly uniform ceramic beads by Hoogeboom not only references the heavy collars created by some African ethnic groups, but also the elaborate starched ruffs worn by European aristocrats during the late Renaissance.
Finnish artist Tiina Rajakallio’s necklaces also offer an interpretation of historical jewelry and costume. Braided from human hair, her Purity series recalls the “sentimental” or mourning jewelry that was popular in Europe during the Victorian era. While sentimental jewelry was intricately woven from gleaming locks of human hair and mounted on gold, Rajakallio’s necklaces are made with cords of hair that look tangled and knotted. The rough texture is a contrast to jewelry “fittings” crafted from gleaming white porcelain, the same material used to manufacture bathroom fixtures.
WHAT: A Bit of Clay on the Skin
WHEN: 9:30am to 6pm on weekdays and 9:30am to 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Until Feb. 5
WHERE: New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum (新北市立鶯歌陶瓷博物館), 200 Wenhua Rd, New Taipei City (新北市文化路200號), tel: (02) 8677-2727
ON THE NET: www.ceramics.tpc.gov.tw/Index.ycm
Out of all the pieces in the exhibit, Rajakallio’s hair necklaces caused the most controversy during the selection process, says Brugger. She felt it was important to include the work because it challenges conventions of beauty.
“The white [ceramic] pieces are the representation of propriety, something that is very hygienic,” says Brugger. “The hair, if you look really close, you can see some of it is not very clean.”
Other pieces are more conceptual in nature and borrow from the visual language of jewelry. The Dowry by French artist Marie Pendaries comprises 28 pieces of plain white crockery with holes of graduating sizes cut into them. They are worn assembled like weighty but fragile body armor. In a photo taken by Pendaries and included in the exhibit, the model laden with The Dowry poses with her palms together and eyes demurely facing away from the viewer, mimicking the posture of the Virgin Mary in portrayals of the Immaculate Conception.
The Dowry is among several works in the exhibition that use jewelry to comment on gender roles. Nymphes, French artist Carole Deltenre’s series of medallion pendants, is the most forthright, with white porcelain casts of vaginas surrounded by metal filigree.
“Traditionally you put the most important thing in medallions,” says Brugger. “Pictures, a lock of hair, something you find really important.”
Dutch artist Manon van Kouswijk’s Re:Model is cast from a mold of a classic pearl necklace. It has to be broken and the pieces strung back together again in order to be wearable.