Culture Victoria

Craft in Context - interview with Roseanne Bartley

By Craft Victoria Posted Under Craft in Context interviews

As an artist jeweller, Roseanne Bartley occupies the intersection between material culture and conceptual practice, engaging in a broader and more expansive interaction with the medium. Bartley directly engages with her surroundings an immediate work environment, to observe, survey and source materials.  Her works are more inclined towards making "localised interpersonal 'jewellery' experiences/performances that engage with community and contemporary concerns, than making jewellery as accessory".  

Born in Auckland, Bartley lives and works in Melbourne.  She has exhibited widely nationally and internationals, is the recipient of numerous Australia Council awards and is an accomplished speaker and writer on the potential of jewellery and its applications.

The Beginning of I Am – NGV Melbourne Now selection (2013),hollow plastic forms, silk, plastic/glass beads, variable dimensions, photograghy by Devika Bilimoria

What are the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of your pieces Putter, Soccer ball and Baseball by the NGV Australian Decorative Arts Collection? Did the acquisition of this series of works present other opportunities?

The works collected were part of a larger grouping exhibited in Melbourne Now. The exhibition and associated events surveyed Melbourne’s vibrant art scene and it was great to have my work viewed alongside many other inspiring works. The opportunity led on to other exhibition and publishing opportunities.

Are there aspects of this particular series that have helped redefine your current conceptual based practice?

The Beginning of I Am (the series which Putter, Soccer ball and Baseball belong to) is one of several propositions in which I speculate on the origins of Jewellery from an artist’s perspective. It’s an overactive Palaeo fantasy, in which I re-imagine the moment before, the moment of (creation), and the moment immediately thereafter (on the body) Jewellery was first conceived of. My approach to practice is trans-disciplinary, I work with the phenomena of Jewellery. I test conventions (my own and others) of Jewellery, particularly Contemporary Jewellery to explore what it is or could be.

Seeding the Cloud: A walking work in process, (2010), found plastic forms, silk, plastic/glass beads, variable dimensions photography by Roseanne Bartley and Alan Preston

When did the focus of your practice shift to explore aspects of material culture and adopt more performative inclusionary processes and what prompted this change?

Performative, social process and working with what I find have been an aspect of the way I work for some time. A recent project, titled Seeding the Cloud, was the first time I managed to accommodate all the methods I use (object making, instructional procedures and social processes) in the one work. I was interested in seeing if I could put the skills and knowledge I had as a Jeweller to ‘make good’ - to see if Jewellery could be instrumental in a save the planet kind of way. The project explored how the phenomena of Jewellery (i.e. process, thing, experience etc.) could raise awareness of the residue of plastic fragments polluting the environment. This ‘re-directive’ (Fry) project included making outdoors, with plastic fragments collected along the way. I carried simple hand tools and park benches and bus stops were adapted as workspaces. I initially shared the process with friends then more widely through hosted walks and instructional booklets. The project is ongoing, open sourced online and has been restaged, by others, in Auckland, Sydney, Canberra, Hong Kong and Iran.


The Beginning of I Am (2014),hollow plastic forms, silk, plastic/glass beads, variable dimensions, photography by Devika Bilimoria

Within your current practice you experiment with a broad range of materials and concepts to construct works and openly engage with others to participate and share your knowledge. When so many contemporary jewellers work within the confines of a studio, what is it about the socialisation of jewellery and the material gathering process which has such appeal for you?

 At some point I realised that I was defining my practice through a model that no longer seemed to fit or at least support the ideas and situations of the work I was interested in creating. I still maintain a studio but it’s just one of many sites I create work within. There is a long history of Studio Jewellery, however there is also a long (if not longer) history of transient or itinerant Jewellery practices. There are many types of Jewellery, many occasions when it is worn and many social actions that Jewellery performs within in the everyday. Working in a cross-disciplinary manner appeals because it enables a broader understanding of Jewellery as a thing, a doing or a way of being. 

Project Oh!, installation view, Gowrie Station (2014), hollow plastic forms, silk, plastic/glass beads, variable dimensions, winner of More Art Public Art Prize, photography by Roseanne Bartley

Are there any particular local public collections or specific practitioners which have influenced your practice over your years as a maker?

I have been toying with how to answer this question so I will keep it simple, no not really (as Contemporary Jewellery is often underrepresented) and yes to the second - Susan Cohn, Manon van Kouswijk and Ben Lignel because aside from making great work they are also generous in supporting the field beyond serving their own immediate needs.  When was the last time you visited a public collection for research purposes and what was your intention with the visit?  I’ve visited the Art Gallery of South Australia, Power House Museum and Bendigo Art Gallery recently, although I don’t tend to think of the way I experience visiting public collections as research, maybe subconsciously it is, but I tend to enjoy seeing and being in the presence of artful things, historical and contemporary.  I haven’t as yet requested to view a particular collection. I am curious about how things are made, who made them and when or where they were made, and viewing in the round is preferred over publication anytime. I have an interest in the experiential, of being in the company of things, sensing them, tuning into their ‘conversations’ across time, space and culture (some of these are forced while others are more convivial). Being able to touch or hold is great but not exclusive to absorbing the essence of their materiality.

What is it about jewellery in particular that holds your fascination and continues to inform your practice?

It’s hard not to be fascinated by ‘Jewellery’, attracting attention is a key criteria!
The ‘doing’ of Jewellery in all of its possibilities, I don’t have to like it, for it to be of interest to me so I have plenty to work with. I think of Jewellery as a way to living, not so much a way of making a living (although they are intertwined).
It’s all the things I don’t know rather than what I know that keeps informing my practice.

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