Hannover, Germany born 1942
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: jewellery, gold 18ct
Frank Bauer is one of a group of European metalsmiths whose emigration to Australia in the 1960s and 1970s enriched and influenced Australia’s nascent jewellery movement. At the time this pendant was made, contemporary jewellers were interested in pushing the boundaries of their medium, questioning the conventional social meaning of jewellery (especially as it related to wealth, status and ornament) and experimenting with new, more sculptural forms and alternative materials.
At this time, Bauer challenged the traditional forms, materials and social language of jewellery by making reference to a range of structures and objects found in everyday life such as buildings, tools and domestic house fittings, reworking them into wearable forms. He also made a series of works in which he explored the grid form, of which this pendant is an important example.
In this pendant, Bauer used gold in an unconventional way, building a three-dimensional grid, a form more usually associated with minimalist sculpture and modernist architecture than with jewellery. At the same time, gold’s ductility and strength allowed him to make his structure of thin wires, building up a form which has all the delicacy of jewellery.
The pendant is imposing in its scale, lending it the quality of a piece of formal regalia; its delicacy and rigorous lines, however, set it apart from the excesses of such traditional wear, inviting the viewer and wearer to recognise the sculptural potential of jewellery and to appreciate the formal qualities of its materials independent of their social status or value.
Anne Brennan 2002.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002