Goldsmiths’ Fair celebrates its 40th year with an exhibition of works selected by Dr Dora Thornton, Curator of Antique and Contemporary Silver, Modern Jewellery and Art Medals at the Goldsmiths’ Company.
Hand picked from the Company’s historic archive, 40 Years, 40 Makers looks at works acquired since Goldsmiths’ Fair’s inception in 1983 and reveals a predominance of silverware, with a smaller selection of jewellery.
This mix of jewels versus other contemporary works within the show reflects the balance of pieces in the Company’s archive, silverware having traditionally taken the lead.
Enticing works such as Kevin Coates’ Amity Cup are especially significant. This striking and poetic sculpture was commissioned to mark the long-standing friendship between the Goldsmiths’ and Fishmongers’, integrating a symbolic pearl passing between the fish and the leopard, each a visual representation of these 2 Livery Companies of the City of London.
Here is an opportunity to take a “glimpse at some of the radical pieces that have shaped design history over the last four decades”, according to Goldsmiths’ Fair and “see how some of the standout pieces of the 1980s have left their imprint on some of the most avant-garde works being created today.”
I chose my favourites for this review, following my own visual muse with an eye on a variety of creative styles. In some instances there are 2 works by the same designer, where they have been presented together in the exhibition. My selection thus adds up to a total of 20.
The 40 works in the exhibition have been grouped chronologically and are displayed in the two large showcases that flank Goldsmiths’ Hall’s grand foyer.
Dr Thornton’s essay about the show, Celebrating 40 Years, which is published in the Fair’s catalogue, provides insights into her choices: “There is extraordinary diversity on view, both in terms of style, design and techniques. Each piece has been chosen to be characteristic of its maker. There is however a sense of progression as well as personality.”
While some of the works, like Angela Cork’s pared down and sophisticated large and small Slim Balloon Vases, are early creations by artists, others represent their designer makers’ work at a later stage of their careers.
This is the case with Michael Lloyd’s gloriously festive Golden Jubilee Bowl and Malcolm Appleby with Hector Miller’s seamlessly elegant Millennium Casket. They both demonstrate mesmerising and masterful hand-engraving blended with an innate talent for well-rounded design, each also marking a historic moment in recent time.
Goldsmiths, silversmiths, jewellers, hand engravers and hand enamellers are represented with creations that range from minimal, most notably Rebecca de Quin’s distinctive Blackwell Series Vases, which evoke nature reclaiming abandoned natural sites, to maximal, in terms of form and surface decoration.
Yusuke Yamamoto strikes a fine balance, evolving pattern and texture across multiple surfaces within and across the outer landscape of his Sea Ice Bowl.
Also compellingly tactile, especially in their meditative fusion of multiple similarly shaped elements, Emmeline Hastings’ kinetic Amaru Brooch and Junko Mori’s delicately detailed Pine Cone – her works, on various scales, are rarely individually planned, instead emerging fully formed from the making and thinking process.
Nan Nan Liu blends a multitude of silver threads to build organically shaped objects and jewellery into singular sculptural forms that alter as they are viewed from different angles.
Colour offers its own narrative in the volcanic golden depths of Emefa Cole’s potent Caldera Ring. In a markedly different style we glimpse dashes of red enamel in the delicate folds of Jacqueline Ryan’s gold Necklace, married to the soft luminosity of freshwater pearls.
Phil Barnes’ exquisite champlevé enamelled Abstract Vase 1 plays with a number of delicious vitreous tones perfectly layered into a delightful mosaic of pattern and painterly colour.
Jessica Jue’s beautifully composed Whispering Reeds Beaker features the ancient Korean gold fusing technique of Keum-boo in painterly brushstrokes on a creamy silver background.
Ane Christensen’s bold Negative Bowl explores the spaces in between, with geometrics that spring out of the smoothest circular design.
Similarly, Wendy Ramshaw’s evocative Song Brooch leaves windows that appear to be cut out for the texture and colour of the wearer’s clothes to shine through its melodic lines.
Rod Kelly’s Willow and Water Trout Jug blends a classic shape with a striking linear handle and is embellished with pitch perfect low relief chasing and eminently graceful hand engraving inspired by nature.
An inherent sense of movement defines chasing and repoussé pieces including Miriam Hanid’s Cascade Jug which engages with the dynamic flow of water in both vision and purpose. Rauni Higson’s Persephone Vase echoes the irrepressible growth of springtime vegetation as it pierces, unfurling, through Snowdonia’s harsh winter environment.
Theresa Nguyen’s animated and absorbing fold-formed Spiritus Centrepiece explores the artist’s perception of containment drawing the eye in and out of its natural spiral.
Visitors to this year’s 40th edition of the Goldmiths’ Fair will find that many of the craftspeople whose work is mentioned here are exhibiting their latest pieces in the show, with most items available for sale or commission. Here is a quick dip into the 2022 catalogue. The show closes on Sunday 9th October. Visit the Goldsmiths’ Fair website for tickets and other news.
Review text, images and video © Emma Boden, 2022, except cover image detail of Kevin Coates’ Amity Cup which is courtesy of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.