With its great openness to the incorporation of materials that are different from those used traditionally in jewellery, contemporary jewellery is a real playground for exploring mixed media, and plastic is no exception. In an era oriented around circular economy and recycling, and in which artists are increasingly questioning the environmental impact of their practice, the notion of reuse is all the more relevant. The reappropriation of materials can thus be part of a practice concerned with the life cycle of objects, but also be at the heart of a more personal discourse, where the found object becomes a relic, an amulet.
In the context of this year’s MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE Festival and the Nuit blanche, the ÉJM invited artists from across Canada to submit their work for the exhibition Le 7e continent, which, by focusing on the use of recycled plastic materials in jewellery, falls within the scope of this year’s theme: a Night in Green. Fifteen of the artists who submitted their works were selected based on the quality of their work and creative process.
Sophie Bélanger’s research stems essentially from her personal perceptions and her feelings about the events she faces on a daily basis. “The title of this work could have been 15q13-q14, which is the number of the gene associated to the disease. Andermann’s Syndrome. That name, that label that’s been attached to our son since birth. To me, this work represents the weight of his illness, the one he carries with him every day. The pain, the discomforts, everything he’s going through because of it. A disease that attacks his nervous system every day and reduces his life expectancy. The golden marks symbolize the imprint that our son slowly creates on us. He teaches us to live our life by appreciating every moment that passes. »
ADRIANNE BÉLANGER ST-PIERRE
Adrianne Bélanger St-Pierre is greatly influenced by the impermanence of nature, which she tries to immortalize through her work. Her pieces reflect all of nature’s elegance, fluidity and apparent simplicity. For this piece, she used various disposable plastic objects from the fast food industry. Giving a second life to this material normally intended to be thrown away, she heated and shaped the plastic into a portable form.
Dominique Bréchault’s rings are adorned with silicone, an industrial material that provides a unique tactile sensation, and are both playful and comfortable. By keeping the decorative elements inside, a little hidden, but close to the skin, where it counts, she allows the wearer to enjoy the tactile qualities provided by the silicone lining. The title is a nod to the usual comfort fit rings, with rounded edges on the inside so that they slide more easily over the finger. It is hard to ignore the irony of this title, given that our dependence on plastic is suffocating our oceans and killing so many marine species. Recovering small pieces of this contested material to incorporate them into artwork will not save our oceans, but perhaps it can serve as an exorcism.
Bridget Catchpole is constantly searching for the unimitable, the worn out, the discarded. The “gems” she collects are found on the tide line. She releases plastic debris from the Pacific Ocean, feeling equally excited and saddened by her findings. From cosmetic packaging to industrial debris, the fruits of her harvests are being raised to the level of precious materials. She is interested in how we manage plastic waste from throwaway culture and how it has become ubiquitous in the natural environment. These harvested materials become a starting point for broader issues: repair rather than substitution, as well as a stance on issues of value and waste, blurring notions of preciousness and sustainability.
Saydee Chandler combines her training as a jeweller with her experience in textiles to create work that challenges notions of usage and materiality. Her work is often inspired by the city itself, particularly the cracks and crevices found in urban structures, which become microcosms of human waste. These negative spaces house glimpses of a community’s identity and form ever-changing visual narratives. Through her practice, Saydee attempts to draw attention to these visual indicators and their ability to define the place humans occupy within the natural and man-made world.
Reflecting on animal cruelty, Xi Chen chose to look at the notion of wildlife protection, focusing on specific cases of animal abuse. For these pieces, she was inspired by the work of cartoonist Dan Piraro. Concerned about pollution caused by human beings and its impact on endangered animal species, she attempts to raise awareness about cruelty to animals and the environment in a playful and humorous way. Her works incorporate garbage and various abandoned objects.
Since we are referring to a continent, we automatically refer to water. Drawing a parallel between water and plastic, and therefore to water pollution by plastic waste, Anick Dusseault’ s brooch incorporates straws and a plastic cap, small objects that are all too often found in our oceans. These two elements express the discrepancy between the green commitment of consumers and their disappointing or even non-existent actions.
Sylvie Laurin is inspired by the beauty of nature, and is both saddened and shocked by humans intruding and altering it. Through her creations, she affirms, questions, suggests and denounces, in order to provoke a reaction, a reflection on the supremacy of mankind in the face of various problems. Her creative process is rooted in experimentation and exploration, and she transforms materials by melting, burning, fusing and destroying them. Her choice of materials, mainly recycled, reflects our culture of over-consumption.
The shape of Plastifieux vortex déconstruit was dictated by the plastics themselves, and by the pollution they generate. The image of the vortex is evoked by the repetitive use of old nozzles adorned with pearls or other jewellery-related elements, as well as by the bone, which defines the central axis of the spiral, while suggesting endangered animal life. Additions of other elements made of recycled plastic act as caruncles and tabs. Finally, the form of the piece terminates with a spiral spring, representing an oscillating pendulum, a pervasive symbol of impermanence.
Inspired by the alarming images exposing ocean pollution, Anaëlle Lepont expresses the dangers of plastic waste accumulation for marine life. In the necklace Profusion, a rubber mat surrounds the wearer’s neck, and the red colour, darkened towards the edges, evokes necrotic coral. In Now Me, the worn and perforated Tupperware container reveals the beauty of what it contains: colour and light. By playing with the container and its contents in such a way, Anaëlle suggests the underwater treasures that lie beyond the opaque islands created by all the plastic waste that covers the oceans. A small mirror is placed towards the wearer and reflects back to them: what actions did they carry out themselves in order to protect nature?
Topography, which is the arrangement of the physical characteristics of the territory, both natural and artificial, is the foundation of this series. The superimposition of organic and synthetic materials in these pieces constitutes a metaphor for the environment and offers a reflection on the question of value. In these works, Clarissa Long uses scraps of discarded materials from object manufacturing and transforms them into new harmonious topographies. Her fascination with plastics and polystyrene comes from their inherent durability and longevity. Since plastics do not decompose in the same way as organic materials, it is a material that is eternal. She considers and treats it as something precious rather than disposable. As an artist who creates and adds objects to this already saturated world, she feels a responsibility to examine the materials that already exist, and to reuse them in order to enhance them, to give them new life.
Emma Piirtoniemi, who works mainly with plastics, is constantly reflecting on her own practice. Caught between the beauty and materiality that acrylic has to offer on the one hand, and on the other hand the impact that this material has on the environment and on people’ s health, her relationship with this material has become a source of tension and confrontation. Using plastic materials that she collects for reuse and experimentation, she creates organic forms combined with natural and rocky patterns and textures, evoking her appreciation for raw materials. The brooch Rubble 01 takes on the smooth, flowing shape of thermoformed plastic, with a slurry of hardened pigment, glass and acrylic cement at its core. The resulting aggregate is both familiar and unusual. When the piece is worn, the raw surface becomes invisible, but continues to collide with the wearer’s body.
The three necklaces featured in the exhibition are from a series entitled Anthropocene, or the Human Era, which is the period in Earth’s history when human activities have a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystem. With this project, Malika Rousseau aims to provoke reflection on contemporary jewellery and its ecological footprint. She worked from a garden hose found in the trash, and she transformed the object in order to enhance its aesthetic value. Without however emphasizing the material’s intrinsic qualities, she plays with the shape of the tube by fragmenting it, and she covers it with paint and pigments until she denaturalizes the object. With a palette composed of three pastel tones, she tries to make waste attractive and desirable.
Jewellery’s relationship to the body prompts Catherine Sheedy to question relationships between humans, their environment and the objects with which they interact. Materials are always at the origin of her inspirations; they are chosen according to their potential to express her conceptual concerns. Catherine intuitively works on each composition, guided by the evolving form. The creations that emerge from this random process are linked to the subjects she tackles, and become imbued with meaning.
The brooches Assemblage explore jewelry as a repository for the artist’s studio waste. Considering the creative space as an ecosystem parallel to real natural ecosystems, Anne-Sophie Vallée collects, sorts and groups objects and materials she finds on the street as well as in the studio. Seeking a logic of coexistence between industrial materials such as plastic, wood, metals and cement, she cuts, shreds, grinds and groups trimmings and debris. Like a collage, she randomly organizes materials by limiting her own intervention as a human being, thus questioning the centrality of her existence in the finality of ecology. This work is an extrapolation on the availability of resources and the nature of future materials in a post-anthropocene era. Jewellery as a speculative object explores the idea of living matter whose inert appearance reveals its participatory potential in contact with the moving body.
The exhibition Le 7e continent is presented in ÉJM’s gallery space, from February 20th to March 13th