CONTEMPORARY NEW ZEALAND JEWELLERY

November 3rd - 15th  2008

Helen Britton

"Munich, 2008. I am still roaming around finding things, hunting for and gathering materials, like I've been doing for years. No sea shores here though, a few river banks now and then and also heaps of junk. Europe: the residue of matter, contemporary and otherwise is exotic and plentiful, piled up in the flea markets, spilling onto the streets out of shops, being broken or discarded and crunched back into the earth for centuries. In the last years I have stopped collecting just anything to make my pieces and have now restricted myself in a non-puritanical way to reworking elements that were originally made for the production of jewellery. This seems appropriate for one so obsessed with the significance and history of decoration, these elements making a kind of double reflection, a new intensity of purpose.
Along side this, from amongst the blur of daily impressions certain pictures manifest clearly and stop me in my travels, I photograph them regularly, these strong images - the supermarket, the half assembled fair ground, the chunks of roller coaster, the building site, fragmented images from the general debris of high density living. I observe in these places potential to combine materials to form structures and concoctions- this is a real source of wonder, I see this all around me, and it is this transformative process that brings about an intense fascination. That I make jewellery, drawings and paper objects and not fun rides, buildings or gardens is a good thing, because I am building in a way a very private world, that accepts no compromises. The scale of my work allows my full range of fantasies without requiring communication and without leaving a legacy of public monstrosities - instead I leave these modest little machines and landscapes for wearing. My practice is accumulative, experimental and heterogeneous, faithful to my life experience. It is also a conscious dialogue with matter, form and ideas.
I create in my work collisions of design, Baroque, reduction resistant assemblages. There is a lot of pleasure here, and also a measure of aggression seeking it's meaning in the present, walking directly out of my lived daily experience. Making jewellery, I play out the tensions and beautiful collisions of my practice in a small complex space. I am happy to think that these little things then find their way back out into the world and into peoples daily lives. I like the idea that they too will become worn and at some point perhaps even discarded, returning to be crunched again through the great geological and chemical machines of the universe, in an act of infinite transformation. These objects are romantic, but also explorative and direct; collisions of elements from the chaos and order of lived experience.
Then there is the nature stuff. I come from a land where the natural often looks artificial and I now live in Europe, in an environment that has been artificially constructed for so long that it seems natural This notion of the natural is consequently blurred. Through this I want to say that the natural world is made rather than discovered is made new again through acts of perception and intellection. My practice as a jeweller, if it mimics anything, it is the way we see the natural world, and the meaning of our efforts to perceive it, rather than its appearance. This is a world in which the natural and the unnatural lie down together, in an urban Paradise Garden made equally of metal and of plastic, of riotous colour and hard surfaces, of ambiguous shapes and substances, of apparently boundless invention. This is now the contemporary nature of things. This is 'Second nature', 'Nature' made over again into a world that we know so completely and intimately that it has become our own 'natural' environment. What I am interested in showing is that the natural and the man-made are inextricably mixed in contemporary experience. There is no doubt that my original Australian environment is embossed deeply into my consciousness, and that this condition makes exclusive claims on the way choose my materials and develop the elements within the work A life lived in these contrasting places makes the heterogeneous nature of the work faithful to my experience."
Helen Britton, 2008

 

1.  Flowers and shells, 2007.  Brooch,  silver,  paint.   

 

2.  Orange succulent, 2008.  Brooch,  silver,  paint,  glass,  plastic.   

 

3.  Necklace, 2007.  Silver,  paint.   

 

4.  Green structure, 2006.  Brooch,  silver,  paint,  glass.   

 

5.  Earrings, 2008.  Silver,  diamonds.   

 

6.  Last bird, 2006.  Brooch,  silver,  paint,  onyx,  sapphire.   

 

7,8,9.  Rings, 2008.  Silver,  paint,  diamonds.   

 

10.  Necklace, 2007.  Silver,  paint,  plastic.   

 

11.  Dark flower, 2007.  Brooch,  silver,  paint.   

 

12.  Necklace, 2008.  Silver,  plastic,  paint.   

 

13.  Earrings, 2008.  Silver,  paint.   

 

14.  Brooch, 2005.  Silver,  paint,  synthetic stones.   

 

Helen Britton completed a Master of Fine Arts by research at Curtin University, Western Australia in 1999, which included guest studies at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich, the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and San Diego State University in California. In 1999 she returned to Munich to complete a postgraduate study project at the Academy of Fine Arts with Professor Otto Künzli. In 2002 she established her workshop in Munich with David Bielander and Yutaca Minegishi. Her work is held in the National gallery of Australia, in the Pinakothek der Modern, Munich, the Schmuck Museum Pforzheim and in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among others . In 2005 Helen was awarded the Herbert Hofmann prize for excellence in contemporary jewellery and in 2006 the state prize of Bavaria for craftsmanship. In 2007 Helen Britton was artist in residence in the city of Erfurt, Germany, and in 2008 was invited into Exempla at the International Craft fair in Munich.

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