Guild of Body Assayers and Refiners


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Pierre Cavalan

Jeweller to the Guild of Body Assayers and Refiners

drug testers, body performance artists, DNA samplers, any practitioner who gave the oath of Hippocrate and wear the heraldic olive branch enveloped by two serpents, as a badge of honour (doctors, surgeon, plastic surgeon, anaesthetists, etc.)
Patron Saint

Caduceus assemblage of crab claws, valves, syringe and red faux ruby, 2001 (photograph Kevin Murray)

Motto Felix qui portuit rerum cognoscere causas
(Happy, the ones that can penetrate the secret causes of things) Virgil

This heraldic wand stands for the many people who make their business the penetration of human bodies in order to extract samples of substances such as blood, DNA, saliva, semen and urine. Like the tradition of hallmarking, bio-assaying entails the extraction of a trivial amount of material in order to determine characteristics of the whole.

Among this group is a younger generation of artists who are breaking the Judeo-Christian taboo on the integrity of the body. These artists include Orlan, who uses her own body as a canvas to create new work of art, and Herman Nitsch, using blood as painting-'the colour red of blood, is the colour of life and death at the same time.' And increasingly we are asked to have doctors to infiltrate our body to take out some bits and pieces, for medical, forensic or cosmetic purposes.

This Caduceus replaces the traditional symbol that includes a branch of olive or laurel, fitted with wings and the two entwined serpents. This archaic symbol was the attribute of Hermes, the Greek god of magic power and messenger of the Gods.

I have employed an animal for the main symbol. The crab claws represent the serpent, and the syringe stands for the wooden wand. Both represent fear (always a strong power of emblematic adornment is to instigate fear in the common mortals). The valve represents security and control. The human heart is a kind of mechanic valve controlling the flow of the blood in our body. The antique glass seems to be encased a hidden mechanism, but unlike our human body is transparent. Like a mace or a flag, the Caduceus is completely useless as a function. Its role is purely representational.

Pierre Cavalan was born in Paris and graduated from B.J.O. School of Jewellery. He arrived in Australia in 1974 where he established a successful jewellery practice. He has had more than ten solo shows, most recently at Brisbane City Gallery. He has received many awards, including the National Contemporary Jewellery Award. Cavalan's work is also on display at Amsterdam's Gallery RA's 25th anniversary show, Maskerade. Pierre lives in Sydney.