Paint on Metal: Continued Explorations (2011-Present)

Delving into the world of production jewellery, and the business side of my creative endeavours has, and continues to be both challenging and rewarding. Many people may only be familiar with my functional, sterling silver jewellery, however, there is another facet to my creative practise that I don’t often have the opportunity to focus on: non-wearable, sculptural metalwork. For several years, especially after I finished university and was living in Toronto, metal sculpture work was at the centre of my artistic pursuits. My motivation to create sculptural began to dwindle a bit over the last few years as I got more involved in production jewellery, so when my proposal was accepted to create and exhibit sculptural works for a show a the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax, I was thrilled, and eagerly set to work.

My show at the Mary E. Black Gallery, Fading Vestiges, opened January 19th, and runs until March 3rd. In the time since the exhibition opened, I’ve been reflecting on the evolution of my work, and what has felt like years and years of questions, searching, experimenting, and finding ways to challenge myself with my work.

My interest in sculpture began during my last couple of semesters at NSCAD University. During this time I became completely consumed by the idea of trying to figure out how to merge my painting and metalsmithing practises. I started cutting up my paintings, and shaping little fragments into gem like forms which I would “frame” in little metal settings, similar to a stone setting. Here are a couple examples of work from 2011:

 

(2011) Magnified 01
B
rass, steel, wood, paint.

(2011) Magnified 09
B
rass, steel, wood, paint.

 

After graduating from NSCAD University, I moved to Toronto where I began what would become a three-year artist-in-residency at Harbourfront Centre. During my residency, I continued to explore this nagging idea of combining my interest in painting with my training as a metalsmith. I started using larger fragments of my deconstructed paintings to create larger, more involved neckpieces. The painted components became more integrated into the pieces as a whole, rather than decorative focal points as in my preceding works.

 

(2012) Succession 01
B
rass, steel, wood, paint.

 
 

(2012) Succession 02
B
rass, steel, wood, paint.

 

Over time, I started to feel like my painting process was still too separate from the metalwork. I would create a painting on wood, cut and shape the wood, and frame and connect the pieces with metal. I began to wonder: what if I painted directly on the metal? This posed a number of technical challenges and implications, but I was up for it.

This marked a huge shift in my work, and the beginning of SO MUCH trial and error.

(2013) Little House
Copper and paint.

(2013) Encapsulated
Brass and paint.

Painting directly on metal opened a whole new set of doors. One of the biggest shifts in my work was the decision to remove my work from the body. This allowed me to become much more expressive in the way in which I played with form, and manipulated the materials. Painting, which up until this point, had been strictly played a flat, two-dimensional role in my work, now could have three dimensions.

As I mentioned earlier, the technical implications of painting directly on metal are many. I had countless failed attempts that resulted in chipping, peeling, devastating messes. But I never stopped trying. In May 2014, I was so fortunate to receive a grant from the Ontario Arts Council which allowed me to attend a workshop in Florence Italy specifically on the application of pigments on metal. Through this workshop, I learned new ways of applying paint to metal that allowed me to gain greater confidence in technical aspects of my work. The most significant thing I learned was how to use my jeweller’s torch alongside my paintbrush!

 

(2014) Ancestry
Brass and paint.

 
 

(2015) Immersed
Bronze, brass, paint.

 

By 2015, I was beginning to question the role of paint in my work. Hesitantly, I realized that paint had become exclusively decorative; I incorporated it into my metalwork for aesthetic purposes only, which was against all reasons why I loved painting in the first place. For me, the act of painting is a way to reflect upon and capture memories. It has always been a way for me to preserve a moment in time, and these ideas were not being communicated through my metalwork. This is when I decided I needed a break, and I took a bit of a hiatus from sculpture work, and focused for a couple years, pretty much exclusively on jewellery design.

In late 2017, I came across an old flower press from my childhood, which flooded me with memories of people and places that had come and gone. Inspired by imagery of pressed flowers, my latest body of sculptural works explore subjects of fading memory, loss, and transformation. To me, pressed flowers are beautiful mementos that mark time and place, and so the works I created are laden with imagery that is fragmented, broken, and muddled in a way that mimics how memories fade and transform over time. Each piece in this body of work is made up of one or more paintings on copper that portray personal memories. I cut and formed the paintings into a myriad of floral-inspired shapes using traditional metalsmithing techniques.

 

(2018) First Thaw, Bay Bulls
Copper and paint, mounted on 20” x 20” wood panel

(2018) Withered and Wiser
Copper and paint, mounted on 18” x 24” wood panel.

(2018) There All Along
Copper and paint, mounted on 24” x 30” wood panel.

 

I’m not sure what, if anything, will come next in my exploration of paint on metal. It’s been a winding journey, each trial leading closer to what I’ve been seeking, but I’m not certain if there’s actually a concrete ending place to which I’ll arrive. I feel like I’ve definitely gotten closer to merging my painting and metalsmithing practises, but only time will tell if I can stay satisfied for long at this resting point.

Fading Vestiges is on display at the Mary E. Black Gallery until March 3rd, 2019.

Thanks for reading! :)