Malcolm Appleby returns to The Scottish Gallery this summer with an exhibition that celebrates his 75th year. The show brings together precious pieces by various friends of Malcolm’s – silversmiths, artists and creative associates – alongside the master engraver, silversmith and jeweller’s own work. The exhibition’s co-curator, Scottish Gallery director Kirsty Sumerling explains:
“We wished to mark Malcolm Appleby’s 75th year and by bringing together several silversmiths, jewellers and collaborators we are celebrating the joy of creativity and Malcolm’s unique contribution to the arts. His infectious enthusiasm for his craft, his willingness to work with other artists and his pleasure in sharing his skills are all celebrated within ‘Malcolm Appleby & Friends’.“
I asked Malcolm how he went about selecting friends for the show: “A breadth of culture was a priority and this certainly helped to narrow down the choice amidst the extensive number of friends that I have worked with over the years. I wanted to focus on international origins and also a breadth of age and experience. Dorothy Hogg and I have known each other since our student days at The Royal College of Art for instance. It was there too, in my later role as an MA tutor, that I met both Michael Lloyd and Jane Short.
I also wanted to recognise some of the more regular visitors who have joined me in my workshop over time. These include Angus McFadyen, who is essentially a self-taught engraver and Miriam Hanid who first came to develop her hand engraving skills. Yusuke Yamamoto initially visited having won a scholarship from Goldsmiths’ Company, and later attended one of the Silversmithing Symposia in Grandtully, where I am based. These have over the years created opportunites for established and fledgling silversmiths, hand engravers and related artists to work alongside each other. The objective of these gatherings has been to nurture the sharing of techniques, projects and contacts (including curators and galleries, notably The Scottish Gallery), encouraging younger generations to join in, and to draw in expert craftspeople from other countries and occasionally other disciplines too. We all have a great deal to learn from each other.”
Kirsty shares more insights relating to the various objects and items of jewellery in the show: “Included are new works created especially for the exhibition, such as a series of three enamel brooches from Jane Short, Michael Lloyd’s Stravinsky Beaker, Yusuke Yamamoto’s Blowin’ in the Wind Beaker, Angus McFadyen’s Pieris Vase and a new brooch from the Artery Series by Dorothy Hogg. These pieces sit alongside fine examples from Ndidi Ekubia, Miriam Hanid, Theresa Nguyen and Max Warren; each showcasing different techniques, qualities and a fascination for materials, but each also influenced by Malcolm’s creative thinking and passion for his craft.”
The show offers a glimpse of some of Malcolm’s earlier designs, from the late 80s and early 90s. The rare 18ct gold Tree Brooch and Pin from 1989 is a distinct highlight, with its intricately hammered rusty-textured surface. The artist’s keen observations of the natural world are as present in this semi-figurative piece as they are in the abstracted Colliding Galaxies, a 22ct gold beaker.
Malcolm describes the beaker’s design as “a tremendously energetic series of spirals, interwoven, just as we humans are, in a massive world of small and large spirals; a universe so vast that when galaxies actually collide in space, there is very little in terms of solid matter that ever touches. The beaker is a merging of thousands of microscopic lines, straight and swirling, cut as fine and as deep as possible to gather light as they travel in different directions. I never know quite what will happen until a piece is finished. This one is a development and continuation of my engravings on gold disks, which act as informing works as well as pieces in their own right.”
Brought to life in Malcolm’s studio, breathing his effervescent approach to creativity, the Colliding Galaxies beaker’s finite surfaces become infinite, echoing endless movement in intuitively blended sections and intersections – here is an unfathomably big universe where galaxies implode and explode, captured in an exquisitely crafted object small enough to cradle in one’s hands.
Smaller still are the variations on a theme, often inspired by daily meanderings through his extensive garden, presented by Malcolm’s Hawthorn pendant designs. These feature precious and semi-precious gemstones.
Asked about the success of the exhibition Kirsty says: “We are delighted to see such a positive response to Malcolm’s exhibition both in person and online. We have had a great number of visitors and each have commented on what a pleasure it is to see Malcolm’s work up close and to marvel at his engraving skills – the play of light and shadow on a surface.“
A visionary approach is also reflected in Malcolm’s friends’ creations and here I have chosen to showcase pieces that were completed this year: brooches, from Dorothy Hogg’s graphically clean lines of oxidised white metal with bold dashes of red felt, to Jane Short’s painterly multi-tonal basse taille enamel and silver work; Angus McFadyen’s vase with its interplay of matte textures and satin smooth form in sterling silver with gilt interior; beakers, from Michael Lloyd’s elegantly pared-down hand raised and chased botanical design with gold inlay detailing, to Yusuke Yamamoto’s delicately textural hammer-raised and chased Britannia Silver; and last but by no means least, Miriam Hanid’s undulating bowl design engraved with minimalist waves, in Britannia silver with lemon gilding.
Visit the online exhibition on The Scottish Gallery’s website where you will also find supporting films and blogs together with further details relating to the artists involved and their work.
‘Malcolm Appleby & Friends’ runs until 28 August at The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ and online.
Text © Emma Boden, images © the respective artists / The Scottish Gallery, 2021.