Precious things aren’t always made from precious materials—and jewellery is no exception.
The intimacy of jewellery worn on the body gives us a unique way of showing who we are and what’s important to us. This exhibition expands on our associations with adornment: drawing out how ideas of value have changed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The Language of Things
features over 100 artists from Europe, America, Asia, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand whose work reveals how personal meaning develops from the often unusual materials and processes used in the field of contemporary jewellery. Visitors can expect to see beautifully crafted, wearable pieces as well as installation, photography and video, including a necklace made of scissors; a woman covered in brass leaves and a screening of jewellery appearances in films over the last 80 years.
At the heart of the exhibition, will be an installation by Berlin based Yuka Oyama called Helpers—Changing Homes, made especially for The Dowse during her Te Whare Hēra Residency. Featuring a video of a performance of wearable jewellery made from cardboard ‘moving’ boxes: her installation playfully mimics hermit crabs swapping shells to find new ‘homes’ which are a better fit. Through it, Oyama helps us think about immigration and how the objects we carry with us help create a sense of home.
The contemporary jewellers in this exhibition make pieces that comment on social, cultural or political matters through the materials that they choose to work with. Their themes include the shifting perception of precious materials such as gold, vanity, gender stereotyping, associations with place and our relationships with accessories, the environment and each other. Using our inherent understanding of jewellery as a symbol of personal expression to explore these ideas, The Language of Things
also prompts us to reflect on how we ‘read’ the materials that surround us in daily life.
Text: The Dowse Art Museum