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The University of Southampton
Winchester School of Art

What Colour is Metal?

Published: 31 October 2022
Exhibition invite

Winchester School of Art is delighted to host the only UK viewing of this ambitious exhibition curated by Sara Roberts and Cóilín Ó Dubhghaill. It looks at the relationship between metal and colour in contemporary silversmithing and jewellery practice.

Event details

Venue: The Winchester Gallery

Date: 14th October - 3rd December 2022

Time: 12.00-17.00 Tuesday – Friday  

          12.00-16.00 Saturday

What Colour is Metal? is an ambitious exhibition that will bring audiences on a journey of process, experimentation and mastery through the practice of 25 contemporary jewellers and silversmiths. This exhibition of beautiful pieces, fascinating in their variety, skill, and creativity, is one all visitors will love.

This exhibition is a consideration of the relationship between metal and colour in contemporary silversmithing and jewellery practice, and a mapping of relationships and practice in key centres internationally.

It examines approaches ranging from colour achieved using the inherent properties of metal to react with other chemicals or heat (or a combination of the two); the reveal of colour as a property of the metal itself; infusing the surface of aluminium with pure colour or image; the use of enamel glazes with varying degrees of transparency and opacity - but always with a fundamentally strong relationship with the surface qualities of the metal.

Through seminal works by key international practitioners, including pioneer of metal colouration research, Michael Rowe, alongside new generations of makers, it places the artists’ practice in a broader context and traces international information exchange. It considers routes to support learning patination at all levels: from schools to professional studios; from undergraduates to specialists in conservation.

What Colour is Metal? makes vivid the connections between innovative studio practice and historic techniques, and furthermore looks to the future and profiles potential adaptations for industry. It examines notions of value, and the changes in assay regulations which have allowed a freer approach to combining precious and base metals within a single work. The possibilities for achieving colour modulations and sometimes startling colour were seemingly endless.

The democratisation of the information occurred at a time when notions of precious were being re-examined and led to a surge in the application of colour; on jewellery and vessels, but more widely in architectural practice, in mid-scale applications such as furniture and interior surfaces.

It has been described by esteemed crafts writer, critic and curator Martina Margetts as “a paradigm of the transformation of the aesthetics and creative possibilities in the last quarter of the twentieth century.”

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