Matters of Life & Death

7th July - 25th Sept 2011

Dig Yorkshire review

Dig Yorkshire, July 14th 2011
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About Us

July 14th, 2011
Matters of Life and Death
Lisa Farrell

Jewellery, clothes, shoes, accessories. To me, they’re all art. They allow anyone, whatever their artistic ability, to curate their own personal exhibition every day. An exhibition that tells their story, expresses their personality and represents the very essence of who they are, what they believe in and who they want to be.

Matters of Life and Death really spoke to me for this reason. Curated by Kath Libbert at her jewellery gallery in the beautiful Salts Mill, the exhibition explores the personal responses of nine international jewellery artists to themes of man-made destruction, natural disasters, regeneration and hope. Highly interactive and provocative, each artist poses a series of multi-layered questions, stories, paradoxes and statements through the medium of their jewellery.

The provocation I felt was immediate. After being in the gallery for ten minutes, Sophie Hanagarth’s wrought iron bracelet, which resembles a ferocious wolf trap, was clasped upon my hand. The sensation of seeing and feeling my hand devoured by such a brutal, yet beautifully crafted device was overwhelmingly paradoxical – is it ok to enjoy wearing something so fiercely evocative of pain and violence?

Bernhard Lehner’s sword necklace is another thought-provoking piece. A violent weapon originally created for harm and destruction has been transformed into a striking body adornment by being sawn into small pieces. Even the method of transformation is similar to the way the original weapon was used to cause harm. For me, this presented a challenging question about transformation and redemption. Can someone, or something ‘bad’, ever be totally transformed into something completely different (and ‘good’), if they are ultimately the same person, or consist of the same original elements? It’s a question I can’t answer, but I relished the opportunity Lehner’s jewellery gave me to ponder it.

As well as jewellery dealing with darker themes, the exhibition explores more playful and optimistic ideas. Samantha Queen’s post-apocalyptic tree brooches are wonderful. My favourite was a colourful, jauntily shaped tree trunk adorned in a painstakingly intricate mosaic pattern. The foliage itself is like a little window, covered by tiny glass shards which can be shaken to reveal a gorgeously hopeful vision of an unfamiliar, yet beautiful new world, born out of apocalyptic chaos.

Visitors to Matters of Life and Death are invited to be photographed wearing the piece that moved, excited or revolted them the most, and to record their personal response on a ‘Chain of Thought’, which aims to be the focal point of the exhibition. Unable to resist a chance to try on the jewellery, I was drawn towards a statement white necklace created by Angela O’Keefe, which formed part of a set of dazzling jewellery where all the pieces were made using salt. I was completely enamoured with the premise that something so exquisite could be made from something so natural and completely fundamental to our existence. The absolute epitome of natural beauty.

An exhibition that provokes and delights, Matters of Life and Death at the pint-size Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery proves that very good things do indeed come in very small, and beautiful, packages.

Image: Agnes Larsson neckpiece in Carbon and Horsehair from her series 'Carbo'.

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm.