Tonight sees the opening of the exciting "Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out" exhibition at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, an exhibition which features work from many artists and makers and which I am honoured and pleased to have been invited to take part in. To date, I have published no work from the show as I wanted it to be viewed at the gallery before making it public to try and preserve some of the shock which I feel when I consider the work at a distance of several months since having completed it. For this exhibition, I collaborated with my friend and colleague, photographer Simon Murphy and a group of young people who had various experiences of violence in their lives. It is probably best explained by the text which I wrote for the SCC for the exhibition catalogue:
When the Society for Contemporary Craft asked me to participate in their exhibition, our initial discussions revolved around my use of themes of violence in my work, works with titles like “Noli Me Tangere” and “Mace”, pieces based on mediaeval weaponry and tales of bloodshed. None of these works seemed to me to be a direct response to the title, “Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out”, but rather to be dealing with themes of violence as distant, perhaps even romanticised concepts which have no bearing on modern lives or real people. We live in an increasingly violent society: violence is real and affects the real lives of real people. I wanted to take the concept of the title and really say something.
I am fortunate in having been spared any real violence in my life: mugged once in the streets of Glasgow, but other than that, nothing. I needed other people to give me the starting point, people for whom violence has played a part in their lives and who have perhaps even had their lives changed by the effects of violence.
Thus I came to the idea of interviewing people who have experienced violent events first-hand, perhaps even instigating those events themselves, allowing them to tell their stories and giving me something to work around, creating a piece specifically for their story. Once the interviews started, I realised that my response, the jewellery piece, was not enough... it needed to be given context, to be presented with the narrative upon which it was based and in discussion with my photographer friend and colleague, Simon Murphy, it was decided to use a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach, presenting text, photographs and objects as the response, the dynamics and tensions between the three giving a rounded picture of how deeply violence can affect lives.
The exhibit consists of entirely new work made for the exhibition. No material from the exhibition has been published or exhibited in any form prior to the show. For each of the four people in the project, the installation will be:
- a landscape-format high-quality photographic book (10”x8”) presenting their story;
- a framed photographic portrait of the person (20”x 30”);
- a framed photographic triptych of the person and their environment (16” x 40”) and;
- a piece of jewellery made from found objects, gemstones and precious metals.
After the exhibition is over, the jewellery and the portrait image will be given to the person for whom they were made. The book will be available for gallery visitors to buy online.This is exactly what Simon and I then proceeded to do. We found five young people who had experienced violence in their lives, heard their stories and Simon Photographed them and their environment; I made pieces of jewellery which reflected their stories and then we photographed them again with the jewellery.
Shown above is a bangle made from a discarded kitchen knife and set with five diamonds. The person wearing it lost five friends to gang-related knife-crime.
This pendant was made in response to a story by a young woman who was a victim of a deliberate hit-and-run assault with a vehicle. The piece is made from pieces of a burnt-out car, polycarbonate reflector from a crashed car, silver, quartz, garnets and black spinels. The heart reflects her willingness to forgive her attacker.
Should anyone be interested in seeing more of the work or reading the narratives, the book is available for purchase through Blurb. I apologise in advance for the cost of the book but the quality of the production is wonderful and I am sure that anyone buying one will not be disappointed.
If you get the chance to go to Pittsburgh to see the show, it is well worth having a look: the range of works which have been included is wonderful and it is sure to be a thought-provoking and maybe even controversial show.
Working drawings for one of the pieces in the show.
I've completed the commissioned Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring, "Autumn Resonance" made from bashed iron conduit, silver, a huge citrine, champagne diamonds, hessonite garnets, peridot and a pink tourmaline:
As well as two more of the "Tank" bracelets:
Weekend in Brighton now!