craft / “Ring Masters”, at Bilk, until November 23. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.
“Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid, copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade. ‘Good’ said the Barron, sitting in his hall, ‘but iron – cold iron – is the master of them all …”
– Rudyard Kipling
IT is such a delight to see artists who are in such control of their chosen materials, and who know how and when to challenge the viewers. The three exhibiting artist, Cinnamon Lee, Sean O’Connell and Johannes Kuhnen, are all master ring makers.
Four rings by O’Connell made of steel, copper, argentium silver (a brand of tarnish resistant silver alloys), and 18ct gold, illustrate the pithy statement by Kipling. Each ring contains stainless steel bearing balls.
O’Connell is also showing an enormous “roller” ring in stainless steel, with bearing balls made specially to fit Andre the Giant, the original ring master roller. Who would have thought one could inject humour into such seemingly simple works?
And, he’s showing a series of “Kinder surprise” rings in brightly coloured corian – all with stainless steel bearing balls. These rings are witty and fun. Bearing balls again feature in several rings made in tantalum (a rare, hard corrosion-resistant metal), titanium and stainless steel.
Lee is showing a body of rings titled, “Force”, as they rely on the intrinsic physical qualities of the two combined metals – titanium combined with either silver or gold. Titanium is a hard metal, strong and durable. Gold and silver are both softer and more pliable. As Lee explains, these rings achieve visual and metaphorical contrast. They require the accuracy of computer-aided design and traditional bench skills, so that the two parts fit perfectly together.
Kuhnen sets large semi-precious stones in titanium or silver. They sit up and proud in the setting or low, so that the stone sits on the top of the finger. They are comfortable to wear but are lively at the same time as they are gutsy. The faceting of some of the stones adds a bit of sparkle as they catch the light. Restrained anodising highlights several stones, as though the colours are reflected in the metal.
The exhibition is well-behaved, by which I mean it doesn’t challenge the viewer. Everyone will find a piece they can fall in love with.
We should celebrate the beautiful works created by these three master craftspeople.