Music / “Byrd Round Table”, The Song Company. At Wesley Uniting Church, March 16. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
“PANORAMA” is a major exhibition from Julie Blyfield, a leading Australian jeweller/metalsmith.Blyfield was invited to present a solo exhibition at Ruthin Crafts Centre in Wales, and serendipitously the Australia Council offered “Creative Australia” grants, funding for major overseas exhibitions. Blyfield’s application was successful and she set out to create a “landscape of work”, over a period of around 15 months. She undertook considerable research for this exhibition, travelling to historic townships in South Australia, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and bush walking in and around Adelaide, where her studio is located. She also attended a specialist workshop with Master Sung Joon Cho from Korea where she learnt new skills and adapted new techniques and processes to use in her own work.
She approached the exhibition slowly, as she prefers to work in series, or an integrated group of work. Each piece has a relationship with the others, so the end result is a coherent vision. One piece – or the idea behind it – leads to the next. At the same time each piece stands on its own.
Blyfield chose the title “Panorama” as she felt it reflects the openness and lightness and diversity of the Australian landscape, its scale, colour and history.As part of the research, Blyfield collects natural objects, and draws, and photographs tiny details and wider locations. She then creates paper models, a quick and simple method of exploring her designs.
The artist’s preferred material is silver, in its pure form, and also its stronger alloyed form, sterling silver. The surfaces of many of the works in this exhibition are textured bright, white silver. Others are painted with enamel paint, or oxidised to give the appearance of a darker colour. Occasionally, gold offers a contrast to the bright silver.
There are over fifty pieces in the exhibition, which had a preview at the JamFactory in Adelaide, before travelling to Ruthin Crafts Centre in Wales and the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. Thirteen are small vessels, cups and lidded containers. The remainder is neckpieces, arm cuffs, brooches and earrings. The work is deliberately intimate and modest in scale – Blyfield makes the jewellery always with the wearer in mind: one can immediately imagine how it would look on the body. The vessels can be cupped in both hands.
This is an intelligent and thoughtful exhibition. The viewer knows immediately how much work it has been. Making over fifty pieces was a time-consuming and slow process – a huge investment in time and metal. The result is a magnificent exhibition that rewards several visits.