Drawings and Jewellery
15th August – 8th September 2018
Margaret West (1936-2014) was one of Australia’s finest contemporary jewellers. Her restrained yet passionate works in stainless steel, stone and marble are thoughtfully conceived, impeccably crafted. More than that, they share the allusive compression that West explored in her other great passion in later life, writing poetry.
These companion practices were sustained by West’s constant habit of observing the natural world: looking, drawing, taking notes. Whether of flowers in her Blackheath garden, or cold seas off the coast of Norway, her drawings were made to explore what was around her, to contemplate its beautiful gravity. West also looked unflinchingly at humanity, and our propensity for injustice, as the vibrant scarlet drawings for Fatal Flowers reveal.
With a practice in jewellery spanning four decades, Margaret West was one of the most respected artists in her field, not only in this country but internationally; she was renowned for the uncompromising probity of her work, noted for her demanding rigour as a teacher, celebrated for her writing about making.
This exhibition marks the first solo showing of Margaret West’s work since her death four years ago. It has been eagerly awaited, since it offers the opportunity to look again at West’s tough and loving vision of the world. In particular, this exhibition explores the way drawing worked in tandem with her other forms of practice. Whether austere graphite accounts of the stainless steel brooches from the 1980s, or delicate flower studies from the 2000s, Margaret West’s drawings are always forms of thinking, ways of seeing, that live in dialogue with her jewellery and her poetry.
Born in Melbourne in 1936, Margaret West studied sculpture and printmaking at RMIT in the 1950s, then ceramics, painting, and gold and silver- smithing at RMIT in the 1970s. Widely cultured, she also studied philosophy and music (piano, oboe, viola). In 1979 West moved to Sydney to take up a position at Sydney University College of the Arts, where she taught in the Jewellery and Object department until 1999, where she was noted for her demanding rigour as a teacher.
West was initially widely recognised as one of the most important Australian jewellers of her time, though her practice moved between installation, object making, jewellery, drawing, and photography. She received numerous awards, most notably a Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts in 2000-2001, and she was named as a Master of Australian Craft by Craft Council of Australia, in 2007. West travelled and exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas and is represented in many major Australian and international museum collections. Her poetry and essays have been published in journals and anthologies, and on the internet – see her own website http://www.margaretwest.com.au and klimt02 (see https://klimt02. net), the important jewellery blog published out of Barcelona, for additional images and texts by West; she also published artist's books, which developed dialogues between text and image.
From 2000 onwards, Margaret West lived at Blackheath in the Upper Blue Mountains of New South Wales, working in her studio, writing, and delighting in her garden. Margaret West died on 2nd November 2014 at home in Blackheath, surrounded by her close family.