Silver in Translation

This text was written by Ralph Turner, renowned curator, writer and former Head of Exhibitions at the Crafts Council from 1979-1989. It accompanies his exhibition Silver in Translation at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Wales. Esther Lord and Grant McCaig were the other silversmiths showing work.

Silver has long been considered a precious metal, with close links to wealth and status. Vessels, candelabras and elegant tableware have earned a distinguished reputation for the silversmith; for centuries, ecclesiastical commissions for the church, along with private orders from affluent patrons have been their means of support. As worthy as this sounds, perhaps this credible position is the cause that has kept the silversmith’s art at bay from contemporary society ?

Silver in Translation is an attempt to deflate this elitism with fresh inspirational thinking from three young British artists who have attracted an enthusiastic following for their diverse expressions. Some works read as abstractions or are architecturally led, whilst others take a more subversive approach to conformity. Such innovative invasions question our values and our perception of silver in the 21st century.

David Clarke’s formidably ambitious work takes the preciousness out of the silver. Pummelling the valuable alloy, he creates the most unlikely experiences that go way beyond the usual well mannered decorative mode of silversmithing. In recent groups of sculptural work, he has bonded silver to the most damaging materials, such as salt and lead which make further physical attacks on the precious metal. In some new work, he detatches components from “old silver”, giving the segments a new purposeful life, full of wit and movement.

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