Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Sublime Mundanity

"REMEMBER me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day."
-Remember, Christina Rossetti [Excerpt]

In Latin Memento Mori translates as "Remember you must die", translated using English it means "remembrance of death". To the Victorians this meant that as a means of remembering the people they loved who had passed on, they collected ringlets of hair and captured them within pieces of jewellery. They would be wound and shaped into intricate floral plumes.

The ultra modern equivalent being to compress your loved ones ashes into a small number of diamonds. A truly horrific thought, which was only worsened for me when I saw an interview with a woman who had created diamonds from her cats, each of which she had had set into a series of rings. For future reference, I have no desire to be made into a diamond and no ring shall be waiting for me to be set into, preferably I'd like a little bit of pink glitter in the old ashes, but that's by the by.

Morbidity aside, I do love the sentimentality that we place onto jewellery. We have piece from loved ones, pieces which belonged to other members of our family and we use jewellery to celebrate the momentous moments in our lives. But that's why I love Melanie Bilenker nod to Memento Mori.

Bilenker uses strands of her own hair set onto reclaimed ivory, behind resin, to create elegant and simultaneously complex and simplistic line drawings of scenes which seem commonplace. Someone lying in the bath, putting up their hair or making a cup of tea; mundane parts of everyday life which we take for granted. But aren't those the things you miss?

"The Victorians kept lockets of hair and miniature portraits painted with ground hair and pigment to secure the memory of a lost love. In much the same way, I secure my memories through photographic images rendered in lines of my own hair, the physical remnants. I do not reproduce events, but quiet minutes, the mundane, the domestic, the ordinary moments." - Melanie Bilenker

Bilenker's jewellery is one of my favourite examples of not only a jeweller creating a contemporary twist on a traditional type of jewellery, but also of it being used to capture memory in an unusual way. Especially as this is without feeling the need incorporate high-tech components or resort to the traditional locket form.

Plus, I don't think I could draw a person that accurately these days with a pencil let alone bits of my barnet!

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