Small Connections // Essay

Small Connections: Exhibition essay by Rebecca Evans

Through time and across cultures, jewellery has connected us to our place in the world. As a public display of love, loss, affiliation or activism, adorning oneself with jewellery has functioned as a core expression of what it means to be human. Connecting these ancient traditions with contemporary practice, the Small Connections exhibition presents recent work by JamFactory, Adelaide Metal Studio associates, alumni and tenants. The works were predominantly made at the beginning of 2021 – some a visceral response to the COVID-19 pandemic, others a critique of the world’s current climate predicament.

The lived experience of COVID-19 is expressed through the work of Katherine Grocott. Her necklace, titled 1.5M, 2021 - features circular pivot points as a reference to social distancing. In Emma Cuppleditch’s series of earrings and necklaces, It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to) – 2021, unused tinsel encased in resin symbolises birthdays, weddings, and parties that never happened. Danielle Barrie’s neckpiece, Silver Birch - The one that makes you blind - 2021 is imbued with a sense of loss and longing as she reflects on her childhood home, seen through the lens of her computer while viewing a family wedding she was unable to attend.

In Gretal Ferguson’s Stitched – 2021, striking powder-coated copper vessels are precisely laced using silk thread, elegantly uniting the traditions of metalwork and textiles while exploring the gendered roles of each discipline. Daria Fox’s ring, titled Protector, reflects the history of jewellery as a mechanism of protection from outside forces. Fox imprinted her fingertips on the sterling silver, ensuring the wearer carriers the mark of the maker. Zoe Grigoris uses the ancient ‘love heart’ motif in her work, referencing jewellery’s role in the exchange of love and affection. For Erin Daniell, the motif of a daisy rendered in acrylic and sterling silver alludes to distant and vague memories so often captured in the traditions of love-and-mourning jewellery. Indian/Australian maker Sarra Tzijan collaborated with designer Jake Shaw to produce a neckpiece titled Lowlight – 2021, made from mycelium (a type of fungi), challenging traditions in materiality and notions of preciousness.

The work of Polly Dymond and Kath Inglis uses plastic, as a critique of this controversial and often discarded material and to transform it into something precious. Dymond’s This  Mess Brooch #2 and #3 uses polystyrene foam and creates pyrite-like clusters, blackberries and geometric shapes through the use of oxidisation and enamel paint. Inglis has long employed the luscious, translucent qualities of Polyvinyl Chloride in her jewellery. For this brooch, she explores epiphytes - plants or algae that grow upon one another in a sense of harmony, reflecting the artist’s longing for a peaceful coexistence between the humans and the natural world.  

Navigating tradition, politics and contemporary society, the works on display in this exhibition traverse the lived experiences of each maker in an attempt to forge connections and make sense of a changing and uncertain world.

Rebecca Evans

Curator of Decorative Arts and Design

Art Gallery of South Australia

Image: Daria Fox, Protector ring, 2021, STG, black druzy. Photo: Grant Hancock.