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Manon van Kouswijk
Artefacts of life

20th October - 12th November 2011

What do we modern humans have in common with the first people that inhabited the earth? Well, we wear jewellery; we were already wearing jewellery before we started wearing clothes. The fact that the Neanderthals were making and wearing jewellery proves that they had the capacity for symbolic thinking. Jewellery and weapons are the world's oldest artifacts. Today's weapons do not look like the ancient ones, but the appearance of the bead necklace has remained the same. The adornment of the human body is a primal urge that has created a flow of jewellery with endless symbolism. Jewellery is beautiful, it provides protection; it is economic security; shows status; carries memories and more. Jewellery refers to human and spiritual issues. The objects are often small in size but take the greater place in our emotional worlds.
Along with the diamond ring, the pearl necklace is the most popular piece of jewellery. While humans prefer soft and round shapes to square shapes a beaded necklace does not need to be of genuine pearls or round balls. A bead can be made of any rigid material with a hole so it can be threaded on a string. The range of the beaded necklace is enormous, from children's first pieces of jewellery made of plastic beads to the invaluable pearl necklaces for kings and 20th century movie stars.

Throughout her career Manon van Kouswijk has been interested in bead necklaces and their significance for humans. She has experimented with different materials, techniques and social codes. The exhibition Artefacts of life presents three collections and two publications. Two of the collections, Perles d 'Artiste and Trophées, feature necklaces made of porcelain. The elements of the necklaces are hand shaped according to a strict method that is based on different ways of modeling the material; this making process is an important aspect of the work. Alongside making necklaces, Manon has collected a large image archive which forms part of her recent book Hanging Around / the pearl chain principle.The book explores the basic principle of the beaded necklace which can be found in sources from peas in a pod and mathematics to Supernova 1987A - described by scientists as 'pearls on a cosmic necklace'. In an essay contained in the book Pravu Mazumdar suggests this all-embracing way of looking at the necklace could be an act of 'wearing the world'. An extract from his essay: "In the seventh century, the powerfull Tibetan king Songtsan Gampo married a Chinese princess. According to the Tibetan story of his wooing, he was required, in order to win the hand of his bride, to pass a silk thread through a coil of perforated turquoise beads arranged in concentric circles; the problem was solved by tying the thread to a queen ant which he placed in the perforation of the first turquoise, gently blowing into the hole, till to the amazement of the lookers-on, the ant came out at the other end of the coil, dragging the thread along" (Laufer, Berthold, "Notes on Turquoise in the East" in Field Museum of Natural History, Anthropological series, Vol.8:1913, p.5.).

Manon van Kouswijk was born in 1967 in Holland. She has 10 years of training in jewellery, including studies from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and The Munich Academy. After training, she has been working as an artist and professor at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands. Her resume is long and she is represented in a number of museums and galleries worldwide. Since 2010 Manon van Kouswijk lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.



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