'Silver World Jewellery of Marian Hosking' Academy Gallery, Lauceston Familiar Less Familiar exhibition (2004)
If thou seekest her [knowledge] as silver, and searchest for her as for his treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Bible Proverbs 2.4-5
Marian Hosking's fine works in silver constitute a life of acute care for the world. The way she renders nature into metal is almost organic. Let's consider how Marian came to this, and where she leads us.
The basis for Marian's artistic vision seems laid partly at her birth. Her parents' marriage combined the two main elements that characterise her work. The mother was a passionate conservationist and the father was a Methodist metallurgist. The work that Marian has come to make seems to marry the bounty of nature with the discipline of matter.
Marian studied Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT in the late sixties, under Wolf Wenrick, Chris McWaters and Vic Bottiker. In late 1969, she was invited into the five-person studio of Tor Schwanck, who made silver jewellery. She then travelled to Germany and worked in Pforzheim , a city on the edge of the Black forest long considered the centre of watchmaking and jewellery. In Germany , Marian was employed as a wax model maker for Gunthner & Cie. It was the Stuck Museum in Pforzheim which showed Marian that jewellery could be taken seriously as an art form, not a mere trade.
As is often the case with artists who submerge themselves in another culture, Marian returned to Australia from overseas determined to make her work identifiably of its place. Marian moved to Wagga where she established its first jewellery course in 1973. In 1976 she established a workshop in Melbourne and helped found Workshop 3000 in 1981.
A strength of Marian's professional practice is in making opportunities for others. Today, she combines responsibility as head of the metals department at Monash University with a career that takes her to the UK , Korea , Japan , Germany , Austria and India . Marian uses the language of silver to find a place for Australia in the world.
This rigorous adherence to a single material is rare. It seems against the grain of contemporary practice for an artist to limit her horizons so. What characterises most artistic practices today is a multi-skilling disposition, involving printing, video and merchandising. But in limiting her horizons, Marian achieves a remarkable intensity.
In translating the natural world into the language silver, Marian removes detail of colour, shade, movement and texture. What remains are the structural underpinnings of plants and birds. This might seem a massive loss of information, compared to the high-resolution media that we now take for granted.
But what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. High-resolution comes with a dependency on delicate wiring which removes the image from the viewer. Marian's minimal resolution nature, however, gains durability and haptic appreciation. The silver world promises to endure millennia, well beyond the latest DVD.
Recently it was announced that a medium had been designed that promised ultimate archiving capacity. A company had developed micro-etching techniques that could engrave information into a nickel disk at an atomic scale. Remarkably, this technology is not digital. It reproduces actual text, in up to 4,000 shades of grey, which can be read by a microscope. Thus the information would outlast any future changes in digital technologies as well as the electromagnetic effects of a nuclear blast. In a similar vein, one feels that Marian's silver world has a longevity far beyond our present horizons.
Marian deals with the world at hand and her sources are radically familiar. In Marian's desire to reflect her local world, she settled on the fern as one of her trusted devices. While every continent has ferns, they are subtly different. Normally, the kinds of plants considered iconic to Australia include the wattle and Banksia. Marian took a great interest in the fern shed at Ripponlea, but found it contained only exotic varieties. What fascinated her especially was the ordinary household fern. In a similar vein, the angophora that features in Marian's necklace was taken from her driveway in Kew .
There is a diaristic quality in Marian's practice. But rather than inscribing her experience on paper, she translates it into a hard silver world.
Marian brings this world back to her studio and renders it into silver. Her two principal processes are casting and piercing. While wax casting is often considered a trade-like aspect of jewellery, Marian attempts to translate the language of nature into its constituent parts. These are then rearranged in classic forms, such as necklaces. Piercing is a particularly strong element of Marian's practice. She saws and drills so prolifically into silver that she manages to give what is otherwise a cold metal an almost fibre-like texture.
In her linear methods, Marian returns to the artistic spirit of drawing. The printmaker Albrecht Dürer once remarked, 'For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it'. The act of the pen was Dürer's principal instrument for 'drawing out' the design hidden in nature.
This reduction also brings the artistic sensibility to bear more strongly. In drawing, the artist makes a critical judgment about what lines to abstract from the scene. Picasso's Don Quixote drawings are famous for their economy in the way he so simply expresses the spirit of his subject. It is by this means that we can connect with the consciousness of the artists.
In the case of Marian's work, we witness an eye which attends to the modest elements that underpin the natural world. She attaches tiny leaves to her cylinders and brooches that enable her forms to sprout life. Her eye is not for mountains or trees, but what is at hand in the immediate suburban world. Marian's work brings us close to what Hegel described as the 'shudder of nature', the small details of nature such a sudden breeze which the ancient Greeks studied for signs of a greater design. The kind of drawing we find in Marian's silverware is not static, it shimmers and rustles.
Marian Hosking brings us the world at hand.
Copyright held by author Kevin Murray