COLOUR AND VISION & THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
"Through The Eyes of Nature"
The Natural History Museum's new exhibition, "Colour & Vision" features many wonders of nature. To demonstrate how colour is often a warning they use the cinnabar moth as an example:
"Orange stripes, red spots and black mouths are all warning signs that an animal is dangerous. Poisonous and venomous animals often warn off potential predators with dramatic colours and markings." Colour and Vision
I first encountered a cinnabar moth when I was on my way to the studio in Manchester a few years ago. The bold black and red patterns of the little winged insect caught my eye so I took a photo of it and looked it up. The patterns are so striking it had a real impression on me. I wanted to try and capture it in a ring, so it really a "Moth Effect" rather than a "Butterfly Effect"!
The larvae of the cinnabar moth eats the leaves of the ragwort plant making themselves and the adult moths they become poisonous. The red colour warns predators not to eat them as doing so could be fatal.
Red = DANGER
The cinnabar moth is actually named after the bright red mineral cinnabar, which is also poisonous.
A form or mercury sulfide, this mineral is highly toxic.
When ground it is used to create the pigment "Vermillion". Treasured for its vivid hue, it is the only red pigment that was known to the ancients. Vermillion was revered by the ancient Romans. They even used it to paint the faces of their victorious commanders during the "Roman Triumph" Ceremony.
Because pure cinnabar was so rare, vermillion became immensely expensive and the price had to be fixed by the Roman government at 70 sesterces per pound - ten times the price of red ochre.
The image above shows a fragment of Ancient Roman Fresco recently unearthed in Southern France, the colours still vivid after spending 2000 years buried in the dark. The use of the expensive red pigment shows how wealthy the inhabitants of the villa were.
You can read more about the history of this red pigment with Windsor & Newton's "Spotlight on Vermillion".
Maud's objects create a post-apocalyptic landscape as a collection of glittering, futuristic cosmic debris. She describes her approcah as "Naive, playful & messy". I love the sense of intrigue they inspire, some are wearable, others are objects to enjoy and ponder. By creating a whole installation it has created a strong atmosphere of her work and by making it visible on a busy city street it makes this kind of exciting work visible to the general public and their daily lives rather than in a closed gallery.
Here is some information on our concept behind the exhibition, and reasons for holding it at Gill Wing jewellery gallery;
The Big Bang 2015 by Maud Traon
"An explosion of colour and creativity in the jewellery universe. Maud takes us on a flight of fantasy in her use of unusual materials in eye catching colours and sparkling textures to create objects that fill us with wonder. Finest Swarovski and toy trinkets are engulfed in resin glitter, with gold and silver layers sealing their fate.
We chose to work with Maud for our first exhibition of 2015 to show an example of the creativity and individuality of the makers work we have in the gallery. We now house over 60 original jewellery artists, from the accomplished artisans, many of whom are now teaching the next generation and the up-and-coming, experimental makers. These designers push the boundaries of jewellery by utilising new technology, or demonstrating ancient jewellery techniques combined with fresh ideas. We hope that by continuing to showcase these talented individuals, exemplified by Maud Traon's extraordinary objects, we welcome in 2015 with the only limits to jewellery being those of our own imagination."
Here it's as if they are in a vivarium creating an atmosphere for these other worldly specimens to thrive in allowing viewers to see them in their weird and wonderful habitat.
Maud says she enjoys walking when coming up with a new piece, I agree that it is perfect way to allow yourself space and time to think and dream. Maud's foam rings here are encasing fairies, mermaids and princesses, we suspended them as if they were floating away, showing the lightness and delicate beauty, something for the daydreamers wishing to escape the mundane.
When we asked her what fragrance her pieces would have Maud answered (they would smell of) "spices and sweets". They certainly look tempting to passers by, catching the eye of even the busiest shoppers and commuters on Islington's busy Upper Street!