Above: David Mcleod's Matchstick Brooches- st silver and red goldAt this end of this week I’ll be winging across the Tasman to find out what has been happening since I was there last in 2003. I intend to construct extra large pockets in all of mine and Mr Accordian’s clothing to maximise pebble collecting capacity!
I will also catch up with David Mcleod, Dunedin jeweller and sculptor who I did a mentorship and residency with. His beautiful stone, bone and shell work with Japanese alloys drew me at the Jewellers and Metalsmiths conference in 2000 and I was lucky to be able to work with him for the 3month mentorship and afterwards in his collective studio, SHED. I’m looking forward to hearing about a new 3d gallery in the pipeline that he is involved with and seeing he new directions in his practice.
David’s latest work uses matchsticks as concept and material - matches can be interpreted in all sorts of different ways. As shorthand symbols of transience, survival, safety/danger, warmth, light and sustenance. Destruction and a chaos; disposable, stored energy. He has remade matches in sterling silver and red gold (above) as well as many other materials and also used the burnt matches themselves:The piece that inspired the collection was a paua shell inlaid box made from matchsticks – I suspect he picked it up in one of his favourite second-hand shop haunts. David is one of those people who cannot walk past a secondhand shop without stopping for a look-see.
Matchstick crafted objects remind me of prison art. Constructed by desperate men with time on their hands for repetitive, tiny work that is not highly valued by society, though gaining recognition by collectors under the banner of Tramp Art. I appreciate the wrecking aspect – the pointless and nihilistic activity of going through matchbox after matchbox lighting and discarding matches. Then the rebuilding into decorative objects expressing some scaled-down emotion - hope cloaked irony? Maybe part of a deeper need just to create and build that comes out in odd ways when suppressed. Tinderbox was an apt name for the show he presented last year at Quoil Gallery.
The ownership of materials, native to New Zealand and introduced through colonisation and their adoption by different cultures is explored in the flag-like brooches. It picks up on a theme resonant in NZ contemporary art here as in Ralph Hotere’s work exploring the British Union Jack flag that we cannot seem to move past in post-colonial Down Under.
As a gift, I can imagine these matchstick brooches ($75AUD) will be ideal markers for women or men (yes boys, these would look great on a lapel) celebrating significant birthdays and events and am already taking orders for them from Brisbane friends! I wonder if he sells them in matchboxes. I cannot wait to see one close up so I can find out what tricky hinge and catch mechanism he has worked out! And I want to team one up with one of my Flatliner firemen pins!