Domain of the Material

Anne Pfeffer Gjengedal
Domain of the Material, an exhibit of international contemporary jewellery, was held at the gallery ‘Create Space Tokyo’ in southern Tokyo from 26 September to 5 October 2014. Makiko Akiyama reflects on some of the works in the exhibition.

Viewers enjoyed various styles of works by 17 artists including Jose Santana (USA), Theresa Lovering Brown (USA), Robert Coogan (USA), Pierre Cavalan (AUT), Julie Blyfield (AUT), Leslie Matthews (AUT), Anne Pfeffer Gjengedal (NOR), Ingjerd Hanevold (NOR), Lucie Houdkova (CZE), Maria Borjesson (SWE), Tomoyo Hiraiwa (JPN), Cho Soung Hae (KOR), Hwa Kyoung Nam (KOR), Yu Jin Choo (KOR), Kwon Hyang Ah (KOR), Sung Hyun Park (KOR) and Yu Fen Lee (KOR).

«The size and hand-crocheted texture transform the work from mere decoration into an agent that quietly connects the individual with nature»

Anne Pfeffer Gjengedal, one of two Norwegian artists, exhibited three brooches and two necklaces. One of these pieces, For the Bird, is a rather long, hand-crocheted silver necklace. According to the artist, its length (160cm) expresses a link between human beings and nature. The size and hand-crocheted texture transform the work from mere decoration into an agent that quietly connects the individual with nature. The artist keeps her intervention in nature to a minimum. The wasp-nest-inspired brooches are also made of crocheted silver wire. This technique reveals a common thread running through all her works – an affectionate way of looking at nature and all its small creatures. The homey acts of crocheting and knitting cause us to imagine a scene where a person is crafting a gift with great care, such as a mother knitting a pair of gloves for her child. Silver is stiff and cold in nature, but Gjengedal’s technique turns it into something gentle and warm.

Another participating Nordic artist is Maria Borjesson from Sweden.
The way she perfectly orders the repetition of small, identical components and the way her featured necklaces are flexible on the body remind us of works by the Norwegian Tone Vigeland. Maria’s practice, however, differs from that of Vigeland in that she uses aluminium as a main material along with silver. Another unique touch is how she hand-paints a layer on top of the aluminium to enhance luminosity. Despite aluminium’s intrinsic lightness, you can feel a comfortable heaviness when you wear her necklaces.

In her necklace for Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria, she uses shape and colour to express different aspects of Victoria’s life. While the geometric and straight shapes represent Victoria’s position as a public official, the deep and subtle hue made by multiple layers of similar colours expresses her private character. Also, the use of two different colours of lilac and red on both sides renders various aspects of her personality such as energy, warmth and humour.

Lucie Houdkova

«Examining the smooth, curvaceous forms, we see fine lines at regular intervals that form a subtle texture»

Lucie Houkova from the Czech Republic is a young emerging artist selected for this year’s Mari Funaki Award for Contemporary Jewellery. Houkova exhibited two necklaces and three brooches from her Cocoons series. Examining the smooth, curvaceous forms, we see fine lines at regular intervals that form a subtle texture. The precision reminds us of things made with a lathe, but the works are manually crafted by winding, then pulling polypropylene tape. The unexpected lightness of the materials, in combination with the fact that we as viewers cannot fathom the painstaking manual labour involved, create a sense of intrigue. The weight of these works is an intimate secret revealed only to those who touch and wear them. 

Six Korean artists participated in the exhibition, several of whom are university professors. According to Tomoyo Hiraiwa, the owner of Create Space Tokyo, it is difficult for South Koreans to establish themselves as artists unless they are engaged in teaching. Their works express high technical skill. For example, Sunghae Cho presented iron nails to which gold had been applied, and Kwon Hyang Ah had several works covered entirely in enamel. Then there’s Sung Hyun Park, who created a distinctive look: his use of CAD (computer-aided design) resulted in precise and geometrical shapes. He and his students play an active role in introducing digital technology to the otherwise traditional South Korean jewellery scene.

Gallery owner Tomoyo Hiraiwa is herself an artist. She makes jewellery and other objects and is known particularly for her hammered works with wavy patterns. But allow me to introduce another distinctive series of works she has made using Japanese paper and metal. This series is based on the two concepts organic and hybrid, which made a strong impression on her when she was in New York in 2006. These two seemingly divergent concepts are connected by the idea that “the material chooses the form”. In putting this idea into practice, she carefully examines the qualities of her chosen material to find forms with unique voices.

Tomoyo Hiraiwa promotes her guiding idea through her strong Korean network, but in my view she could gain much from focusing outside the Korean context. Personally, I hope to see more exhibitions in the Far East featuring works by experienced and emerging artists from countries in Northern and Eastern Europe. Japan, for instance, has no galleries that regularly show works from these countries; information from their jewellery scenes is scarce in Japan, so here Create Space Tokyo could gain a strong position, both as an exhibition space and an information repository, thus as a unique cultural channel.

Installation view

Makiko Akiyama was born in 1979 in Osaka, Japan. She studies jewelry as an independent researcher and writer while working as a translator.