The Devon Guild of Craftsmen Summer Show this year has the title “Reaching for Gold.” Although the immediate obvious connection is with the upcoming Olympics, I thought I would explore other possible meanings as inspiration for my entry. I kept returning to the idea of a Golden Age and the very human desire to reach back to supposed Golden Ages of the past.
The Golden Age of Chinese art is generally considered to be the period covering the Tang and Song dynasties (618 to 1279 AD.) It was during this period that much of the “visual language” that today we think of as Chinese art was developed. Painting, calligraphy and ceramics (as well as poetry) all reached what connoisseurs consider to be their highest levels of achievement. The later great flowering of Chinese porcelain relied almost entirely on forms and decorative motifs that were developed in this earlier period. In fact, virtually every piece of Chinese fine or decorative art produced since the late 13th century draws on these earlier times.
One classic Chinese motif that particularly resonates with me is the cloud. Clouds bear various traditional meanings – they can symbolise heaven or good luck – but at the level of form they express wonderful movement and rhythm. These swirling designs have a long history and can be traced back to the linear designs that were used to decorate Shang dynasty bronzes over 3000 years ago. In this latest project, cloud motifs wind around and through the design.
This neckpiece and bracelet are very much designed to make a statement, utilising the ideas behind my recent work to create a grander and more celebratory piece.
They posed a new technical challenge, as I had to learn how to integrate and overlap numerous separate pieces. This is very different from the way I make my brooches, which in most cases involves creating a form by twisting and stitching just one piece of fabric.
Reaching for Gold runs until September at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracy, Devon.
Related post: Devon Guild Summer Show