The current exhibition at FORM Gallery in Perth (and touring to the Jam Factory, Adelaide in 2011), Julie Blyfield: Contemporary Jewellery & Objects, 1990-2010 represents both a new series, Scintilla and also a retrospective that carefully charts 20 years of meticulous and careful ex
Julie Blyfield: Contemporary jewellery and objects 1990 â€“ 2010
15 October 2010 - 14 January 2011
5 February - 20 March 2011
Jam Factory, Adelaide
Julie Blyfield, jeweller and object maker, has spent the last 20 years creating an exquisite â€˜landscape of worksâ€™ from the varied and disparate landscape of South Australia.Â The works have encompassedÂ a variety of approaches including references to pressed flowers and plants in Pressed Works (2005) to urban archaeological digs in Stratigraphy of Chance (1992 -) and abandoned camps and living places in Mourn (1993 - ). In 2007 Blyfield became the first Australian jeweller to have work acquired by the MusÃ©e des Arts DÃ©coratifs that is part of the Palais du Louvre; specifically two Paris Collection brooches from her 2007 exhibition at HÃ©lÃ¨ne PorÃ©e Gallery in Paris.
Blyfieldâ€™s new series Scintilla symbolises a spark and Blyfield explains; â€˜Scintilia implies something soft, open and lightâ€¦ A freshness similar to the environment from where the ideas emerged .â€™Â Elisha Butler, Curator of Julie Blyfield: Contemporary Jewellery and Objects 1990 â€“ 2010, describes the new works in Scintilla as â€˜tactile and visually redolentâ€™ .Â The series â€˜a delicate, chalk-hued collection of plant and marine animal specimens inspired by Kangaroo Island, a place the artist regularly visits.
Retrospective at FORM and JAM, 2010-2011
The current exhibition at FORM Gallery in Perth (and touring to the Jam Factory, Adelaide in 2011), Julie Blyfield: Contemporary Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010 is a retrospective that carefully charts 20 years of meticulous and careful expressions.Â The work has evolved from regular visiting and documenting the plants and life of the landscape of South Australia â€“ from the Simpson Desert to Kangaroo Island.Â In Scintilla the colours and textures are soft and subtle, reflecting Kangaroo Island coastline where the light is bright and the air is fresh.
Blyfield has acknowledged that her inspiration comes from her own familial heritage, the line of matrilineal gardeners, the embroideries of her grandmother, studies of botanical collections in museums and herbaria in Australia and Europe as well as years of travelling and collecting plants.Â
An early memorable work was Doyley Bead Necklace (1990) made with copper, brass and steel cable and recycled glass doyley beads. A conceptual turning point was Faux Pearl(s) (2000) which embraced faux pearl beads encrusted with foundation cream, talcum poweder and beeswax â€“ a tribute to her grandmother.Â It was a bold experiment that led to the Lazy Daisy Pins (2001), a series of 20 pins, made with iron wire, steel and oxidised sterling silver.
Technique and workshop experience
Another significant aspect of her practice is Blyfieldâ€™s experience at the Gray Street Workshop, which she joined in 1987, becaming a partner in 1989.Â Blyfield cites a critical and inspiring part of her education was when she was mentored by Frank Bauer in 2003.Â Bauer taught Blyfield traditional metal smithing skills â€˜including how to prepare and shape the stakes for raising flat metal into three-dimensional formsâ€™. (Julie Blyfield in Elisha Butler, interview, Julie Blyfield: Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010, FORM, 2010, catalogue).
Predominantly working in pure silver and sterling silver sheet, Blyfield creates the tactile, finely textured surfaces inherent to her work using a â€˜chasingâ€™ technique â€” working the annealed metal sheet with steel tools to create surface patterns. ( FORM)
Pressed Desert Plant series (2005)
In the Pressed Desert Plant series (2005) Blyfield utilised metal raising and chasing techniques,
to work and form the pure and sterling silver sheet into three-dimensional forms which are threaded, folded and interlaced together. By applying colour to these pieces I wanted to reflect the warmth and the faded, muted tones of the old plant specimens.
This beautifully resolved series was based on Pastor Johann Reutherâ€™s early twentieth-century collection of pressed indigenous plant species at the South Australian Museum. (Wendy Walker,Â Craft South, Julie Blyfield)
Flourish (2003) and Natural Selection (2008) at Gallery Funaki, Melbourne
The development of the painstaking metal raising techniques saw Blyfield create a landmark series in Flourish in 2003 which was exhibited at Gallery Funaki, Melbourne.Â This facilitated the enhanced sculptural forms of later series.Â This also heralded a different mode of presentation â€“ the ensemble, â€˜a collection of discrete, yet symbiotic pieces as a single compositionâ€™. (Wendy Walker, Julie Blyfield: Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010, FORM, 2010, catalogue essay)
This heralded a â€˜highly assured orchestration of form and surface textureâ€™ albeit often with pieces acting as counterpoints or foils to each otherâ€™; some with spiky or wiry shapes and others apposite with a rounded mass.
Natural Selection series evolved from a close study of Aboriginal and Pacific Islander artefact collections at the South Australian Museum, followed by a visit to the Simpson Desert and a workshop on the use of natural materials.Â The preparation was an inventive and time-consuming process to anticipate the production which would feature and keep intact the organic materials such as acacia wood and quandong seeds.Â Blyfield states,
Â I am not really interested in replicating a plantâ€™s form in a true sense but I try to capture the character of its form, colour and texture and reinterpret it in my own wayâ€™
(Julie Blyfield in Elisha Butler, interview, Julie Blyfield: Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010, FORM, 2010, catalogue)
The necklaces followed a traditional approach of threading items together, albeit with cotton thread and the natural materials, such as quandong nuts and native wood segments, painted or treated.
New highly foliated forms 2007-
Collect (2007) ushered in a new direction in which the emphasis changed from solid highly textured objects to more open and highly foliated forms .Â The desert plants in the Paris Collection (2007) were also highly foliated vessels of sterling silver, such as White desert plant. Interestingly enough, Blyfield has now oxidised and coloured the three remaining non-oxidised silver vessels from that collection â€“ Saltbush, Green desert plant and Spiky desert plant. (Wendy Walker, Julie Blyfield: Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010, FORM, 2010, catalogue essay).
Scintilla returns with the highly foliated forms of sterling silver and refers to the Natural Selection series but with a focus on the coastal and marine life of Kangaroo Island, with Coiled kelp and Lace shell brooches and a neckpiece, Sea Foam of sterling silver and cable. The counterpoint within the series is the oxidised blackened silver forms that comprise Sea cones, Bell weed, Tangled kelp and black foliated Sea sponge vessels.
This exhibition says much about the documentation and knowledge of Australiaâ€™s flora through the symbiotic relationship between Indigenous knowledge and European craft.
Implicit within the spiral and flowing structures is an acknowledgement of a relationship to country that reflects an awareness of translating its organic nature through labor intensive processes.Â However, ultimately there is poetry and beauty in the resolution of the forms and processes that give us lightness and air.Â
Kathryn Wells, Communications Manager, Craft Australia
Julie Blyfield: Jewellery & Objects, 1990â€”2010, FORM, 2010, catalogue available for sale from FORM
Julie Blyfield is represented by Galerie Ra, Amsterdam and Gallery Funaki, Melbourne. Her work is available from Charon Kransen, New York; Object Gallery, Sydney; Beaver Galleries, Canberra; JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design and Zu design in Adelaide. (Craft South)
Blyfieldâ€™s Â work is held at institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Musee Des Arts Decoratifs, Paris; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and the National Gallery of Australia. Blyfield completed a residency with Frank Bauer in 2002-03, as well as residencies in New Zealand and the UK. Blyfield is a regular exhibitor at SOFA, and has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally. Blyfield showed at Collect 2008, London at Victoria and Albert Museum, London represented by Galerie Ra, Amsterdam.(OzArts)
Select bibliography and online resources
Gallery Funaki, artists, Julie Blyfield
Blyfield, Julie, Natural Selection - Artist statement, Gallery Funaki, 2009.
Cochrane, Grace, Handmade at the heart of things, Object, 2004: 20-24.
Dixon-Ward, Ben, Julie Blyfield : Natural Selection, Craft Victoria
Freestyle, Gray Street Workshop
Gray Street Workshop
Gray Street Workshop, Gray Street Workshop, Celebrating 15 Years, 1985-2000, Adelaide: Gray Street Workshop and Object, Australian Centre for Craft and Design, 2000.
Marshall, Marion, Diversity, Texture, Richness, Lemel (in Association with Object Magazine Number 1/99), 1999: 35-36.Melbourne Jeweller, Julie Blyfield â€˜Natural Selectionâ€™ @ Gallery Funaki
Moore, Ross, Hunters and Gatherers, The Age, April 3, 2009: 19.
Radok, Stephanie and Richards, Dick,. Julie Blyfield, Wakefield Press, 2007.
Radok, Stephanie, Wild Nature: An Australian place, Object, 2003: 76-77.
Wendy Walker, Julie Blyfield, Jeweller, Craft South, member profile