Unwearable Jewellery

14 december 2012 / art / words christopher dewolf

01-05 Do Oneself an Injury by Gloria Ng06-09 What I Have Become by Tricia Tang


A new contemporary jewellery exhibition in Hong Kong and Sydney questions the boundaries between contemporary art and jewellery.

In a city where luxury jewellers dot every other corner, you’d think jewellery would get more respect. But even Hong Kong’s art scene seems to view contemporary jewellery with a certain wariness.

“I’ve always asked myself why it’s called contemporary jewellery and not contemporary art,” says jewellery artist Tricia Tang. “People in Hong Kong still don’t fully understand it, but they’re beginning to find it interesting.”

Things are a bit more progressive in Australia, where Tang studied and where contemporary jewellery is much more established as an art form. So Tang teamed up with another Hong Kong-born, Australian-educated curator, Aidan Li, to put together a new show that pairs five contemporary artists from Hong Kong and Australia with nine contemporary jewellers, each of whom has created a piece of “wearable art” or “unwearable jewellery.” The exhibition, Mmmmm..., runs until December 19 in Hong Kong, after which it moves to Sydney from January 24 to February 5.

“Hong Kong’s artists and jewellers are such a separate community, but when they work together they blur things more than I expected,” says Tang. “I think there’s a lot of potential here.”

One example is Do Oneself an Injury, a video and photography installation by jeweller Gloria Ng. Fascinated by the small metal braces implanted into her father’s leg after he injured his knee, she created a series of metal objects that can be embedded inside the body; when they are revealed by x-rays, it looks like the bones are adorned by necklaces and broaches.

“It’s not just for decoration,” says Ng. “It’s actually a piece of body architecture, sometimes limiting movement, sometimes enhancing it. What is a perfect body? If it’s already perfect, why do we need to decorate it?”

Tang’s own work – also inspired by her father – deconstructs the idea of jewellery in a similar way. Tang’s dad is a traditional Chinese ink painter, so Tang made a series of hand-carved chops, typically used to sign an artwork, which can be stamped directly onto the skin, creating a kind of ephemeral jewellery. “I fell in love with art because of my dad but I don’t want to do something just like him,” says Tang.

Tang has invested her own money in the exhibition after she and Li were rebuffed by local galleries. “They only wanted to know whether it would be profitable,” she says. Instead, they set up shop at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, an affordable government-run venue. Their Sydney show will take place at the artist-run Gaffa Gallery.


“Mmmmm...” Until December 19, 2012 at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, 7A Kennedy Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. Tel +852 2521 3008. January 24 to February 5, 2013 at Gaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW. Tel +61 02 9283 4273‚Äč.

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