Bringing the outside in: Discovering a language of intimacy and “nothingness” through a dialogue with Jewellery, by Roseanne Bartley
Jeweller Caz Guiney has a unique way of engaging with public space, she utilizes its spatial environments in her work as a resource, a collaborator and a muse. The exhibition ‘Precious Nothing’, is her second to directly involve the City of Melbourne as a site and source of inspiration. She has established a dialogue between the city, the object and the body, framed through the physical and metaphoric language of jewellery.
Her approach to her practice as a jeweller is experimental, the outcomes of her processes are tempered by working within the unpredictability of social space, but her commitment to making objects is still firmly located within the skill based field of craft.
The first project located by Guiney in Melbourne’s CBD was City Ring (2003) in which she embedded fourteen hand made precious rings within the cityscape. The project was launched at Red Gallery, where the viewer encountered a series of large format photographs featuring the rings in their various sites. Viewing the images was like viewing a crime scene; their forensic qualities drew the eye to focus upon the detail and so strong was their allure that viewers were inspired to seek out the real thing.
Guiney’s decision to site the “real” rings in locations outside the conventional glass case was courageous and the work provoked strong responses from both the public and media. What Guiney affected through her framing of the viewing experience was an event simultaneously charged with the artifice of jewellery and its erotic allure. Her exposé went further inasmuch as it parodied the “jewellery industry” hype, which seeks to inflate the value of the object by branding it an avatar for perfection, desire and attainment.
There are resonating themes between the projects ‘City Ring’ and ‘Precious Nothing’ although there are distinct differences in the technique, forms and conceptual approach.
In City Ring Guiney heightened the relational dynamic between object, public, and space, by subverting the norm, in her words, by taking the inside out . This enabled new associations to be formed with the city, creating a kind of intimacy with the site that is often disavowed, ignored or overlooked. Situated in this manner the rings performed as object and subject consecutively. As performers, captives and eventual trophies in the wider world, the objects also provided an intimate lens through which to see/experience the city in which we live.
Guiney continues to examine the relationship between object, body and space in ‘Precious Nothing’ although she characterizes the latest development in her work by saying, “I have brought the outside in.”
Guiney returned to the streets of Melbourne for the research and development stages of this project and with a jeweller’s eye for detail observed, sampled, and swept details of the cityscape. The trace offered by the “density of people, buildings and transport” provided Guiney with a fertile landscape of “grime, grit, texture and rubbish” from which to create a new series of work.
Guiney’s methods of identifying and collecting cultural product have an anthropological resonance (although it isn’t necessarily Guiney’s intention to preserve or memorialize). Instead Guiney’s process links the act of research and object making to an anthropological-like exploration of local identity as performance.
In ‘Precious Nothing’ Guiney focuses on the overlooked beauty and the discarded detritus of every day life, defining it as the “nothingness” of space. The nothingness of which Guiney speaks does not refer to an emptiness or lack but rather it is a way of looking into a space and discovering value or substance.
Working ‘in the field’ and ‘gathering the evidence’ has allowed Guiney to become intimate with a number of very public spaces. She stood at the foot of Flinders Street Station and with great care took a silicon rubber impression of the steps – creating a material trace of the site fondly identified by the local populous as a meeting hot spot. She found other locations around town that were also of social significance only to find her processes often interrupted by those employed to keep the streets clean or secure the city.
Undeterred she collected discarded paper from toilets, retrieved fallen costume jewellery from the middle of the road, and scraped pigeon shit from outside St Patrick’s Cathedral. Guiney was compelled to act in this way by her desire to draw closer to the essence of the city and to capture/freeze fragments of its “nothingness”.
Each of these fragments of “nothingness” have been cast into gold and worked into objects of jewellery, collectively mimicking the typology of sacred objects and take-away souveniring practices. It is part of Guiney’s invitation to the audience (made up of those who are familiar with or those meeting the city for the first time) to discover or unearth meaning beyond or beneath its culturally circumscribed symbolic /iconic façades.
In meditating intently on what lies on the surface (as signs for what may lie beneath) Guiney is providing us with unexpected pathways along which we can explore the foundations of our connections to the environment we have constructed and within which we live: And by doing so Guiney points to and investigates our consciousness in relation to the body; our own and that of the city.
Written by Roseanne Bartley
 Interview with Caz Guiney Nov 2007
Pinpin, 18ct yellow gold, cast from safety pin found in Swanston St, Melbourne, 2007