The Hat Project - Here and There - Australia/UK. International Group Exhibition. UK venues: University of Central England Birmingham, 5 Nov – 24 Dec 2003; HUB Sleaford, 30 Jan - 4 April 2004; Winchester Art Gallery, 21 April –21 May 2004; Grundy Centre Blackpool, 3 July – 14Aug 2004; Urban Splash Timber Wharf Manchester, 14 Oct- 29Oct 2004. Australian venues: JamFactory Adelaide, 5 Feb – 11 April 2005; Object, Sydney, 23 April – 5 June 2005; Monash University, Melbourne, 30 June –11 Aug 2005 Toowoomba Regional Gallery, Queensland, 18 Sept –30 Oct 2005. Catalogue: 'The HAT Project- Here and There Australia/UK', edited by Johnny Magee, published by the HAT project 2003 ISBN 0-9546242-0-3
The work for the exhibition was developed during a residency within the 'Here and There' (HAT) exchange project, a programme of 17 residencies between Australia and UK. My residency took place in July and August 2003, and was hosted by the JamFactory in Adelaide. The exhibition showed the work undertaken during the residencies, recognising that this would be work-in-progress focussing on initial research: sketchbooks, collections of found objects; development work: macquettes, trials and samples as well as finished artefacts.
This project followed two major solo exhibitions: 'Shift' (Hove Museum 2003) and 'A Jeweller’s Eye' (The Manchester Museum 2003), in which I explored themes of transparency, visibility transience and secrecy in my work. Both exhibitions challenged conventions and traditions in jewellery such as jewellery’s dependence on material substance or value; it’s presumed inherent longevity; and the role of attraction, in terms of peripheral and conspicuous placement. The work developed for the HAT project continued to build on these directions.
The major group of work in the exhibition: 'The Post Card Series', makes a simple statement about jewellery’s role as a communicator and in gift-exchange. It takes the form of a series of necklaces made daily from found objects whilst travelling to and around Australia. These were posted home to a friend, acting as postcards recording experience and places visited. A dialogue developed with the friend through a series of return necklaces. This contrasts the accepted process of developing jewellery, rejecting sophisticated tools and materials in order to seek methodological and material immediacy. By doing so, I wished to challenge the key craft conventions of time-investment, material value, and object permanency, and link with my earlier intuitive and spontaneous approaches to thinking and making jewellery already represented through The Necklace Series (Victoria & Albert Museum, National Museums of Scotland, Birmingham Museum).
Issues examined in this exhibition informed subsequent projects including my paper ‘A Sense of Place’, presented at Konstepidemin, Gothenberg (2004), and at the Society of Jewellery Historians, London, and published in Gems & Jewellery (May 2006:54/55), exploring the catalytic influence of change of situation, environment and landscape on the conceptual and material development of my work.
This exhibition toured UK/Australia extensively, with nine venues including, at international level: Object, Sydney; JamFactory, Adelaide; HUB, UK National Centre for Crafts. Many of the 17 co-exhibitors have international profiles: Marian Hosking, Catherine Truman, Julie Blyfield (Australia), Mah Rana, Junko Mori (UK). It was reviewed for Crafts Magazine (Ruth Pavey, 188 May/June 2004:60/61). As part of the residency I was also invited to deliver public lectures at the Craft South Centre for Contemporary Craft and Design; Monash University, Melbourne; and the University of Southern Australia; as well as give a master class for professional jewellers at the JamFactory.
Major funding bodies for the project include Arts Council England, Object, Craft Victoria, Commonwealth Government through Australian Council, Arts South Australia, British Council. The HAT residencies were part of the Arts Council of England International Fellowship Programme 2001-2003.
"A small travelling project she undertook on an Australian residency in 2003, hosted by the JamFactory in Adelaide, is emblematic of her move away from the commercial jewellery scene to a new freedom to investigate jewellery’s meanings. In this deliberately reductive exercise, Cousens travelled light with a tiny knapsack and delighted in the opportunity to make something so unsophisticated that it depended only on her hands and such materials as she found around her. Each day as she walked, she made a very simple necklace and mailed it home to a friend, telling her where she was – rather like sending postcards as one travels. Her friend responded by making necklaces herself and mailing them back. These pieces did not aspire to be great and lasting; they were gifts and carried with them that emotional content."
(‘Drawn from the Land’ Deirdre O’Day, Metalsmith January 2007:26/27 USA).
"The spacious landscapes of Australia and the unfamiliarity of its flora were very striking to some of the British artists. Cynthia Cousens, who was based in Adelaide and travelled up to the Flinders Ranges, sent back a series of what she calls necklace postcards to a friend, which were on display. Most were made from natural materials, including eucalyptus leaves. She also showed a collection of samples of netting, commenting that she had become interested in Aboriginal netting patterns."
('The HAT project: Here and There, Australia/UK' Ruth Pavey, Crafts May/June 2004:60/61 London)