Gold: A Material Possession

The recent eye-catching display of my favourite art shop, Cornellison & Son ( a trove of amazing traditional materials, professional pigments and art supplies, estd 1855!) to accompany their array of gilding materials.

The recent eye-catching display of my favourite art shop, Cornellison & Son ( a trove of amazing traditional materials, professional pigments and art supplies, estd 1855!) to accompany their array of gilding materials.

Ancient gold jewellery from Manchester Museum's Ancient World's exhibition.

Ancient gold jewellery from Manchester Museum's Ancient World's exhibition.

"Gold-the most universal of archetypes. It's allure gleams in liturgical traditions and Pagan rituals, royal celebrations & alchemical transformations. The splendour of this precious metal has limitless visual potential. While it's use can veer dangerously close to signalling excess & kitsch, gold is nevertheless flamboyant & resplendent - a spectacle to behold. Somewhere between elegant & overpowering, it became a catalyst for creativity suggesting the transformation of a raw material into a work of art to be admired." Dries Van Noten exhibition, the Decorative Art Museum, Paris

Golden garments, at Dries Van Noten's current Paris exhibition including a beautifully embroidered antique piece.

Golden garments, at Dries Van Noten's current Paris exhibition including a beautifully embroidered antique piece.

 

What I like about gold is the fact that it's NATURALLY OCCURRING, which I think can be forgotten because of it's expense. Valued since it's discovery for it's beauty and rarity, it is also a material with unique properties made up from a combination of ingredients found in the universe. The desire it has created and it's limited availability means it's used as a means of expressing wealth, giving it the reputation for being showy and gaudy. But unlike a wad of paper bank notes for a man made currency, if you found a nugget of gold gleaming amidst the gravel of a muddy stream, or peeking out of a rocky wall it immediately catches the eye as something special irrespective of knowledge of it's outside "worth". Real gold is a wonderful material to work with but causes creative limitations by it's expense. I love pyrite (fool's gold) which as well as having it's own unique qualities also shares some of the appeal of the treasured material. It's natural, it sparkles, it's warm and shiny, I WANT IT on a deep level. And I can work with it creatively on my artist budget and use larger pieces to make a big impact with objects in this lovely, sunny metallic hue. Yuuuuum.

 

 
An pyrite specimen I used recently for a bespoke ring.

An pyrite specimen I used recently for a bespoke ring.

 
Hubert Duprat's beautiful jewelled insect homes I saw in the Dries Van Noten exhibition in Paris last month.

Hubert Duprat's beautiful jewelled insect homes I saw in the Dries Van Noten exhibition in Paris last month.

A wonderful surprise at the Dries Van Noten exhibition was the inclusion of Hubert Duprat's amazing caddis flies which I had never seen in real life before! I love the way he has used jewels and precious materials in this way, showing them as natural things. To us, we know how "expensive" they are in our society, but to the caddis lavae they are just a handy building material to make their little home.  In a similar way, the pearl is known to us as a rare find in the watery depths, romantic, elegant and precious. However, to the oyster it is a way of dealing with an annoying speck of grit so it doesn't damage it's delicate insides, a biological process.

 

Pearls at The Museum of London

Pearls at The Museum of London

These are animals protecting themselves in beautiful ways.

A new exhibition has also just started at The Manchester Museum, From the War of Nature. Coinciding with the commemoration of the start of World War One, the exhibition looks at " the story of predation, competition, co-operation and collaboration... (revealing) that living things resolve conflict in many, often unexpected, ways and aims to challenge the perception that war is an inevitable outcome of conflict." I say hopefully we can form a pearl of wisdom out the irritating grit that gets in our shells. :)

Dries Van Noten, Paris Exhibition

Paris is a city that takes fashion seriously. They respect the couture houses which have established themselves over decades, creating or even engulfing a designer's career (go and see Yves Saint Laurent if you haven't already, as indulgently beautiful a film as it could be). Speeding through the tunnel on the Eurostar, the evidence was there before I'd even sipped my Earl Grey, looking at the cover of their Metropolitan magazine.

I may have snaffled a copy because the journey went so quickly I didn't get chance to read it all!

I may have snaffled a copy because the journey went so quickly I didn't get chance to read it all!

On my wish list to see whilst I was in Paris was the Dries Van Noten exhibition at the musée des Arts décoratifs.  Happily I got to spend a good chunk of time there as it really is a feast for the eyes, I felt totally saturated by the colours and rich textures by the time I left.

This is the first exhibition devoted entirely to the Belgian artist's work, shows us his inspirations and processes allowing us to peer into the mind of the designer. As well as the fashion collections the exhibition has sourced some amazing paintings and pieces to demonstrate the broad references the designer draws upon.


There are many paintings by famous fine artists featured alongside the garments giving a sense of the depth of the ideas and a sense of creativity that goes into the collections. The use of portraits was interesting as clothing is such a personal thing. Selecting your most worn/favourite outfit and displaying it on a mannequin in a gallery could be just as personal and revealing (or more so) as with sitting for a portrait.

 

You can see directly how the styles and techniques of the artists have influenced the fashion work and what makes them more than just clothing. The way they were displayed as well is an all encompassing world of colour and patterns that grows over walls, floors and ceilings so with each section you are immersed completely. With this exhibition the aim really does seem to be an experience in Fashion as Art.

I loved the way they used these life-size photographs of Francis Bacon's studio. The paint splattered surroundings bleed into the mannequins associating them with their freedom of expression and creativity.

Happy Museum Week! Whether near or far, go and see something new, old, or a mixture of the two and be inspired!