Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand

Kevin Murray and Damian Skinner
Powerhouse Museum and David Bateman Publishing 2014, 248 pp.

Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealandexplores over a century of jewellery practices in the Antipodes. Written by Kevin Murray (adjunct professor at RMIT and previous director of Craft Victoria) and Damien Skinner (NZ art historian, curator and previous editor of Art Jewellery Forum), the book offers an introduction to many of the shared influences within craft and artistic practices in Australia and New Zealand.

Delving into the political, as well as the personal, jewellery provides an alternative tangent through which to view Australian and New Zealand history. Beginning with the colonisation of these two countries, Murray and Skinner discuss the British tradition of gathering resources, including diamonds and precious metals, to be amassed within the Crown Jewels.

They go on to examine movements in jewellery practice through the decades from the influence of Modernism to the post-war landscape, which saw an influx of skilled craftspeople, through to contemporary practices. The role of materiality is key to their discussion, as they look at the ways that alternative and non-precious materials allowed Antipodean jewellers to break from tradition, and create a unique sense of place within their work.
Importantly, Indigenous practices of adornment are covered throughout the book, in both a historical and contemporary context. The authors discuss the contrasts between Maori and Aboriginal adornment practices, and also the impact of colonisation on Indigenous cultural practice. Their discussion of Tasmanian artist Lola Greeno is particularly relevant, with her retrospective Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels currently touring Australia.

Within Place and Adornment jewellery is looked at through the lenses of trade, craft and art but most importantly it is examined for its role within culture as Murray and Skinner seek to define how jewellers have created a significant and independent culture of adornment in the Antipodes.

Adelè Sliuzas is an emerging South Australian curator and writer.

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