Bro.och – a selection of brooches for all including men by Melissa Cameron, Marian Hosking, Nick Bastin, Panjapol Kulpapangkorn, Kath Inglis, Johannes Kuhnen, Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Julie Blyfield, Eugenie Keefer Bell, Inari Kiuru, Janice Vitkovsky, Jo Hawley, Jasmine Watson, Larah Nott, Laura Eyles, Zoe Brand and Annelies Hofmeyr. Bilk Gallery. Until July 15.
This is the latest in a series of exhibitions, or should it be crusades, at the Bilk Gallery to encourage the wearing of brooches, especially by men. Brooches have seemingly gone out of fashion. When did you last see someone wearing an interesting or eye-catching brooch? Yet brooches are the easiest of jewellery to wear – they don't have to fit, they don't generally jangle or catch in your hair and are easy to put on.
There is a wide choice of brooches in this selection. Johannes Kuhnen and Inari Kiuru have made brooches that are the quintessential exercise in refined design. Their essential attractiveness rests on the tactile and visual appeal of metal and natural materials like stone. Kuhnen's work is a pleasing balance of metal, natural basalt and found pebbles. Kiuri's Industrial Cloudscapes series suggests the moody industrial atmosphere of Melbourne skylines through the judicious use of patinated metal surfaces.
Other artists use the brooch to comment on popular culture and gender issues. Nick Bastin's series of brooches is called Name Work Badge – is this a sly joke at the name-tag custom? The Pinboard badge is particularly clever. Annelies Hofmeyr's three delicious trophy-wife brooches poke fun at social mores and gender stereotyping. The three Barbie-doll heads are delicately mounted like hunting trophies, complete with animal horns.
What makes these brooches so successful is their social satire, and the care the artist has taken with presentation.
Zoe Brand's two works, Deadpanned (big and small), reveal her penchant for making work that illustrates her love of a play on words. Thai artist Panjapol Kulpapangkorn also plays with words in naming his brooches, so that they seem to suggest an elusive, enigmatic narrative. Melissa Cameron's collection of found objects made into brooches – Hex Key, Bottle Opener and Bike Wrench – titled Tools for Life wryly says it all.
Fine workmanship characterises Helen Aitken-Kuhnen's three brooches that revisit the shapes of brooches she made in the 1970s (the Mushroom series). Their rounded forms are "painted" with washes of soft enamelled colours. Jasmine Watson's brooches are also ornamented with fine enamel, and with their delicate tracery of ornamental decoration have perennial appeal. Janice Vitkovsky's selection of glass brooches with white trailing linear designs seems to chart the rhythms of life. Larah Nott's simplified geometric shapes in anodised titanium zing with colour, while Kath Inglis' attractive series cut from PVC plastic sparkles like colourful gemstones.
Julie Blyfield and Jo Hawley's brooches use the repetition of geometric forms made in metal. Hawley's simple metal open shells are seductive and tactile, with softly glowing metal surfaces. Blyfield's clusters of closed pods based on the seeds of the silky oak have a clear link with nature – as do Marian Hosking's emu and skink brooches that are part of a long tradition of using animal motifs in jewellery. Eugenie Keefer Bell references the night sky in her light-catching silver Stardust brooches. Laura Eyles' organic-shaped brooches are also based on the Australian skies and imbued with her love of mixing mechanical elements and enamelled surfaces.
This may be an eclectic mix, but it demonstrates the variety of approaches to the brooch taken by jewellery makers and makes clear the complex narratives that can encompass the brooch as an art form.