Brooching the Rococo revolution
Recently returned from Europe and a tour of its galleries, museums and palaces, contemporary jeweller Jane Dodd describes the experience as "both exciting and nauseating".
Yet, for more than 15 years, Dodd's jewellery has drawn much of its inspiration from European decorative art. What is so alienating to her about European culture?
Dodd's meticulous and refined brooches of animal's paws, wings and heads, may seem like timeless artefacts that span the history of European culture but it is not a history that she is entirely captivated by. The decorative art of the Rococo period in France in the early 1700s is of particular interest for its excessive and elaborate ornamentation and stylisation of nature - flora and fauna and animals. Although she admires the skill and splendour of its jewellery, Dodd is decidedly uncomfortable with the insensitivity of its treatment of the natural world.
"The extravagance of the natural materials used and the incalculable hours of human graft manifest in the displayed objects shocked me… My pleasure was my shame – or the other way around."
Dodd admits to her guilty pleasure in the excesses of European design and the skill and aesthetics of Rococo decorative art. In her current work this has encouraged her to embrace a similar approach.
"I haven't applied the brakes as much as I had in my earlier work. This time I am layering things on."
The drapery in her work is lifted from Rococo sculpture and is intended to be as similarly deceptive in the way it fakes the substance of materials.
Dodd's jewellery is made from animal bone and wood her choice of materials are as political as they are aesthetic and skilful.
She maintains that the use of bone is empowering and respectful.
"It is good to be using a by-product of the meat industry. It is like returning a degree of dignity to the animal."
The intention to respect her subjects is also evident in the narratives of her brooches.
The masked fox in Fuchsprellen represents the questionable ethics of a game once played in the Dresden Court, tossing a live fox with one hand by two people holding a sling.
"A fox was placed in the sling and the team that tossed it the furthest and highest won the game. It was played at parties which were often masked balls. In my brooch the fox has the sling and is about to engage in some kind of active revenge, taking on the activity that terrorised his kind. All the pieces in the current show began with a story in my mind."
Certainly, Dodd is captivated by the skill of Rococo art and brings something of this to her work.
"These pieces are reminders of the real world and in addition to the stories, crafting these works with meticulous care is also critical. Intellectually it is an exercise for me to realise my vision in my head and then begin to make. There is the thrill of the chase.
"The making keeps me engaged every day. When I go into my studio and sit down at my bench, I always ask myself; am I going to be able to pull this off?"
Jane Dodd, Rococo Revolution, The National, 241 Moorhouse Avenue, to May 16.
- The Press