‘I have a collection of small metal objects with holes, arranged in a line on my kitchen wall, gathered over many years. I have never tired of looking at them, I am fascinated by the permeable quality of these objects designed to contain but also not.’
- Mary Curtis.
To ‘riddle’ is a seldom used verb that describes the act of putting many holes through something. To riddle also means to pass a substance through a large coarse sieve. With their patterns of tiny holes and porous forms, Curtis’ objects embody the term ‘riddle’ in many of its meanings; not least in their niggly, unsolvable sense of purpose.
Comprised of countless small works, found objects and crafted elements, in sterling silver, 18 carat gold, wallpaper, resin, plastic and Formica. Inside, Outside sees a merging of Curtis’ jewellery making practice with her ongoing interest in the nature of collections, and her love of accumulating small and curious things.
Many of the pieces in the exhibition sit across a continuum of porosity – some are solid, others seem barely there. Numerous objects allow flow, or flow through – water could stream through small holes, a hook could slide through the lip of a fish – yet Curtis’ objects are displaced from such concrete purposes, speaking instead to a wider poetics of insides and outsides, of that which encircles, contains, or filters.
Curtis began making jewellery in 1986, after completing a trade certificate in the craft. Her practice demonstrates a keen sensitivity to the visual dialogues that unfold between objects, whether on public display or at home. Small ‘conversations’ of contrast or similarity arise between these works, with their wide range of textures, shapes and weights. Her display arrangements see pieces divided into lines and clusters; using space to highlight qualities of distinction, and sameness, within the body of the collection. The forms sit or hang with a sense of liveliness and mobility; a feeling that stems perhaps from Curtis’ continual arranging and rearranging of these forms in her work space.
Curtis has worked in jewellery education for over 28 years, including as a senior lecturer at Manukau Institute of Technology and continues to work at Hungry Creek today. Her work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally, with recent group exhibitions including: Wunderrūma, 2014 – 15, which toured Galarie Handwerk (Munich, Germany), The Dowse Art Museum, and the Auckland Art Gallery; Ornamento, Contemporary New Zealand Jewellery, 2016, at the Whakatane Museum and Arts, and Wundermeke, 2015, at Fingers gallery, Auckland.
Curtis has exhibited extensively with Fingers gallery, and Masterworks in Auckland. In 2002, she held the position of project manager within the working party that created Objectspace. She has exhibited work at Objectspace previously, with solo exhibition Metadecorative, in 2010. Curtis’ work is held in the collections of The Dowse Art Museum, and the Auckland Museum. Inside, Outside, as exhibited at Objectspace, is a fresh iteration of the solo exhibition of the same title, shown at The National, Christchurch, in 2017.