The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is pleased to present Remarkable Contemporary Jewellery until November 30, 2014, in the Lab Design. The exhibition showcases the work of thirty Quebec and international artists whose creations testify to the richness of this practice. The diversity of jewellery presented illustrates new approaches and techniques.

Creativity rooted in tradition

The exhibition Remarkable Contemporary Jewellery highlights the artists’ creative process, examining not only the medium and its transformation but also the artistic intent. Although some of the artists use traditional materials like gold, silver and precious stones and explore age-old surface treatment, forming and stamping techniques, their artistry remains an act of invention, the expression of a constantly evolving tradition. For instance, the necklace fashioned by Christine Larochelle features silver elements that have been laminated and acidetched. Drawing inspiration from African techniques, Matthieu Cheminée stamped the surface of his bracelet with a pattern of his own design. Approaching a piece of jewellery as a subject of artistic investigation can lead to sculpture, which requires skill and great attention to detail. A perfect example is Kye-Yeon Son’s piece, a work of great refinement and delicacy. Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts, explained: “Contemporary studio jewellery is an important part of the Museum’s collection of decorative arts. In fact, the Museum is the only Canadian institution to have a collection that documents the development and diversity of studio jewellery since 1945. Remarkable Contemporary Jewellery reflects this focus and illustrates several new trends in this artistic discipline. This event also parallels the works exhibited in the adjoining galleries of decorative arts in the Stewart Pavilion, the majority of which come from the Museum’s Liliane and David M. Stewart Collection.”

Jewellery: an object that is constantly being reinvented

While maintaining the basic purpose of jewellery — objects of adornment that communicate various messages about their wearers — some artists endeavour to shake up its traditions. Through a deliberate choice of materials, sizes and fabrication methods, they have freed themselves from established techniques. For example, they often use wood, symbolic of life, not only for its malleability, light weight and low cost, but also because it refers to nature, the environment and renewable resources. Handled in a raw, intuitive manner by Gabrielle Desmarais and Tobias Alm, wood also lends itself to complicated assemblages like the piece by Despo Sophocleous.

New technologies, including 3D printing, offer a promising field for exploration, as seen in Ela Bauer’s minimalist pendant and Anthony Tammaro’s extravagant necklace. Sometimes, the idea expressed by a particular piece of jewellery departs from the purely decorative. The piece becomes the conveyor of a feeling, thought or narrative, but ultimately, the very heart of the creative process remains the body, even though the piece can exist without it. The multiplicity of works on view demonstrates contemporary jewellery’s wealth of visual expression.

The exhibition was curated by the specialist Noël Guyomarc’h in collaboration with Diane Charbonneau, the Museum’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts, and made possible through the generosity of the artists and private lenders, including the prestigious collection of contemporary jewellery by the late Jocelyne Gobeil.