Shift - Towards New Jewellery, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, 4 February – 30March 2003; MAC Birmingham 10 May – 18 July 2003; Angel Row Nottingham, 28 June – 30 August 2003
In total this exhibition drew together a retrospective collection of approx 200 pieces of jewellery and developmental work as well as showing new pieces from the New Zealand project. Jewellery was loaned from major public collections, including National Museums of Scotland, Musee de l’ Horlogerie Geneva, and the British Crafts Council.
The exhibition occupied the three ground floor galleries and marked the re-opening of Hove Museum and Art Gallery after major refurbishment, receiving over 20,000 visitors. Nick Coombe, from Stickland and Coombe, was commissioned to design the exhibition and Design International UK provided the graphics. The publication Cynthia Cousens: Shift - towards new jewellery accompanied the exhibition.
The curator, Linda Theophilus, stated in the introduction to the exhibition that: 'Shift sets out to expose Cousens’ working methods – to chart the long period of gestation and development that lies behind the new group of work, and to set it in the context of the 25 years of her working practice'.
It was divided into seven sections, which were roughly chronological, with the earliest section containing jewellery and sketchbooks from 1975. The section Drawing in Silver was devoted to the Necklace project, including sketchbooks, drawings, textile necklace studies, and silver necklaces, stemming from research on the South Downs in 1995, which Martina Margetts describes as being 'amongst the most authoritative and eloquent sequences of work in contemporary British jewellery' (p13 Cynthia Cousens: Shift published 2003 Hove Museum). Fields brought together work from the YOTA funded residency at Welbeck in 2000, which included extensive research into the patterns of work within repetitive agricultural processes such as ploughing and drilling. Exhibits from this project include pastel drawings and prints, soil samples, historical research of agricultural techniques, photographs, drawn notes and diagrams from interviews with agricultural workers, drawings in silver, and gold grid brooches.
The last and biggest section Haze, Smudge and Stain recorded the work that evolved from studying the West Coast of New Zealand from 1999 to 2003. This is concerned with the transience and evanescence of the land, sea and sky; and the isolation and peripheral nature of the land and community. The work alludes to the emotional and visual experience as well as paralleling it with the exploration of defining issues within the subject of jewellery, for example, questioning the material dependence of jewellery and its role in standing centre stage on the body to attract and draw attention. The work makes use of a range of materials and media including photography, video, light and shadow, construction in paper textile and precious metals to express and explore these concepts and qualities. The exhibition included a series of photographs of seascapes, the reconstruction of the studio wall 2002, jewellery, installation work, and video sketches.
The exhibition was reviewed in the Association of Contemporary Jewellery’s magazine Findings (Stephen Bottomley, Spring 2003) and by Ralph Turner in Crafts magazine (May/June 2003 p56) who writes: 'The main focus was on new, courageous developments while earlier exhibits were a timely reminder of all the strong work this jeweller has produced over 25 years'. An article by Deirdre O’Day, entitled 'Drawn from the Land' (Metalsmith 2007) extensively appraises the work from New Zealand amongst other recent projects. The Waves, 2000 was purchased for Crafts Council Collection from the exhibition.
The exhibition was funded by a major grant from the Arts Council of England National Touring Programme and work in the exhibition was partly funded by a University of Brighton Faculty of Art research grant, Arts Council Development Grant, and by the residency in New Zealand supported by Creative New Zealand and UNITEC.