Although these are new pieces of jewellery in Anna Wallis's catalogue of works they seem familiar, not in a seen-this-before kind of way, but in a same-but-different kind of way; a bit like climbing a mountain I guess. You're moving along, one step after another, watching where you're going, paying attention to what is immediately in front of you and then you pause, look up and out and things are not quite as they were, you have arrived somewhere you weren't before. You are still on the mountain and still with some distance to climb, but you are definitely somewhere new, somewhere you weren't before.
So, let's try thinking of jewellery as climbing, as an accumulation of steps, a serious excursion, but not an excursion into the natural world. Irish natural historian Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote that, ‘Beneath the surface, there is no landscape' by which he meant that the space above ground, for him the landscape, gains meaning (a cultural meaning) through the relationship humans have with that natural world, beneath the surface however, there exists only the natural world, for Praeger a space resistant to the territorialising excursions of culture.
It would seem, therefore, that if you want to hunt out the gems Wallis employs in her work you should stick to the surface of things. Hers are cultural artifacts, shams if you like, that represent but do not reproduce nature. In this fakery, Wallis shares Coco Chanel's delight in producing counterfeits of the genuine article, but counterfeits that hold genuine worth. Wallis seems interested in confusing the poles of nature and culture, in climbing but not to pick up rocks; she has no interest in going underground. Climbing Sugar Mountain is about the view, the scenic lookout from where we might see nature but experience culture.
- Grant Thompson
Anna Wallis is a jeweller from Auckland. She has been making jewellery from her studio Workshop 6 since 1993. Sugar Mountain is some new work she has completed after climbing the Zuckerhutl (3505m), the highest mountain in the Stubai Alps, Austria.