All that glitters

From the outrageously kitsch to the downright unusual, Low Lustre – High Art, curated by Errico Cassar, Carine Terreblanche and Saar Maritz, takes an unconventional, eclectic look at the work of contemporary goldsmiths. The innovativeness and daring of the contributing jewellery-makers – most of whom hail from the Cape – raises their craft to the level of the enticing.

Bending the medium in innovative directions, Erica Strauss, who runs a private studio in Kleinmond, mixes photographic images and found objects with traditional media like silver, precious stones and gold to startlingly fresh effect. Her Millennium Countdown neckpiece features a descending scale of rubber numbers set in silver, nestling between amethysts and citrines. Clean, modern lines combine with enough wit to banish anyone’s pre-millennial blues.

This humorous take is carried through to her Fish on Wheels necklace, which consists of a series of snaps of a garish, mobile toy fish framed by ovoid discs. While the photographic images are unashamedly kitsch, Strauss’s simple design is understated, creating an interesting dialogue with no hint of preciousness about it.

Ricus Oosthuizen slickly reworks the Victorian fob watch to dramatic effect. His pocket watch, crafted in fine silver, perspex and iolite, smacks of Nineties street suss and is an utterly desirable means of keeping with the times.

Consumer icons are a recurring theme in much of the work, showing an awareness of the art of Brett Murray or the ceramics of Shirley Finz. Co-curator Carine Terreblanche’s All Gold brooch harks back to the wily puns and materialist themes touched on at Mother City Queer Project’s 1997 Shopping Trolley Party. Pam Warne’s three neckpieces deliver more of the same. Familiar grocery products are rendered as delicate charms in cloissonné enamel on silver or copper.

Pieces tend to fall down where references to the work of other artists are perhaps too literal. While the strong lines of Anton Heunis’s vinyl and silver brooches show a reverent familiarity with Lisa Brice’s work, they are unoriginal to their detriment.

Kim Boezaart’s pins in the shape of women’s shoes are interesting for the subject matter which they elevate. Peter Eastman’s square rings shaped from coins and set with car reflector perspex have a rough, ready currency.

Highly crafted, unusual, imaginitive pieces – whether functional or obviously purely decorative – characterise Low Lustre – High Art. A strong sense of individuality and originality makes this a compelling, glittering show.

Low Lustre – High Art is on view at the Ntsikana Gallery in the Monument

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Lauren Shantall
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