Margaret West (1936-2014) is renowned one of Australia’s finest contemporary jewellers. Her restrained yet passionate works in stainless steel, stone and marble are thoughtfully conceived, impeccably crafted. Often lyrical and evocative of nature, which West loved, her works are marked by the allusive compression that she explored in her other great passion in later life, writing poetry.
These practices were sustained by drawing, and by West’s constant habit of observing the natural world – she was constantly 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 beauty but also its 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 made a major contribution as an artist, and was one of the most respected makers in her field not only in this country, but internationally; she was renowned for the uncompromising probity of her work, and 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.