Satire is not only the realm of stand-up comedians and cartoonists. It is also the domain of contemporary jewellers, if a recent award-winning portfolio of SU visual arts lecturer Ms. Joani Groenewald is anything to go by.
“My pieces are personal interpretations and abstractions of form, material and colour, which take a satirical stance against popular culture and the consumer-oriented lifestyle that so many South Africans have become accustomed to,', Groenewald notes. “The pieces portray negative character traits as jewels, thereby questioning the meaning of status symbols."
She creates jewellery pieces that are wearable yet unconventional, partly through her use of materials such as plastic and glass. Glass is used to talk about fragility and plastic about artificiality.
Her series of work entitled “Hopelessly hopeful" and “Envy" were judged as the winner of the inaugural South African Contemporary Jewellery Awards in 2018. In 2019, she was the runner-up in the jewellery category of the PPC Imaginarium Awards for a piece that addressed issues regarding the South African mining industry.
“Hopelessly hopeful" consists of three neckpieces made from glass, plastic and brass in mainly black, grey and white. Brass adds the illusion of gold.
“The title plays on my personal feelings of being both hopeless and hopeful for the future of South Africa. I feel hopeless when looking at issues that are more complex than what just one person can assert on their own, yet hopeful for future change and progress'', she explains.
“Envy" is a neckpiece made from black oxidised silver, red and green glass and black and green enamel.
“I used colour and form to create a piece that looks to me like a monstrous, envious character, with green being the colour of envy," explains the jeweller, goldsmith and lecturer.
With this piece, she pokes fun at how consumer culture often encourages envious behaviour, even relies on it to create desire.
“By turning envy into a jewel, it demonstrates how one can internalise this character trait, by placing it on the body and wearing it as an expression of identity. By wearing it, one ironically also takes pride in and ownership of the emotion."
“Envy" was inspired by seven different sets of earrings that Groenewald had previously crafted in 2017 from enamel glass, silver, brass and glass.
Called “The seven deadly seductions", each represents one of the so-called “deadly sins" – pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.
The series humorously challenges and comments on the seductiveness of unethical behaviour.
To Groenewald, contemporary jewellery is all about challenging the stigmas surrounding conventional jewellery design.
“Contemporary jewellery making allows jewellery to move beyond the commercial realm into that of critical artistic practice. It is a means of self-expression," says Groenewald. “It is my art practice, and my way of voicing my opinion. I rely on my technical training and skill set as a goldsmith and jeweller to create wearable pieces of art. The body then becomes a kind of gallery space that moves around and engages with various audiences."
* This article featured in the latest edition of Stellenbosch University (SU)'s multi-award winning publication Research at Stellenbosch University . Produced annually by SU's Division for Research Development (DRD), this flagship publication offers the national and international research community as well as other interested parties a comprehensive, yet accessible overview of innovative and interesting research being done at the institution.The theme of the edition is Research for Impact which is one of SU's core strategic themes from its Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019–2024.
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