Carving, 'Piecemeal', mother-of-pearl/ English lime wood/ hanko ink/ paint, made by Catherine Truman, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 1992
Catherine Truman's detailed 'Piecemeal' composition is intricately carved from English lime wood and mother-of-pearl shell. Although Truman (born 1957) studied in Japan in 1990 with the contemporary masters of the traditional 'netsuke' carving, she comes from a jewellery background, having trained in metalsmithing, jewellery and teaching in South Australia. She co-founded a co-operative access jewellery workshop, Gray Street Workshop, in Adelaide in 1985, the members drawn together out of a shared belief that jewellery had the potential to express personal, social and environmental politics, issues beyond the purely decorative.
The period in Japan in 1990, focused Truman's attention on the art of making, the technical skills of making and the intense importance of the relationship of the whole to the part. These experiences, combined with her own ability and imagination resulted in carved objects like 'Piecemeal', which express contemporary ideas through the use of metaphor.
'Piecemeal' was part of an exhibition series called 'Lifeboat', where forms of boats were juxtaposed with fish, the series concentrating on themes of intimacy and exploring the physical and emotional layers we, as human beings, construct for protection and growth. The fish image represents mortality while the boat embodies corporeal notions of the body as a kind of vessel. Truman's jeweller's eye for detail is reflected in the intricately carved open hull, canoe-shaped, English lime wood boat and the carved and incised mother-of-pearl fish. The black ink which has been rubbed unevenly into the finely incised cross hatching which decorates the surface of the outside of the boat, adds further intensity to the detail of the piece. The three carved sections of the boat's interior deliberately approximate the sections of the fish. This 'Piecemeal' carving exemplifies Truman's exquisite skill at producing series of works for exhibition.
This work was designed and made by Catherine Truman (born 1957), who trained in jewellery/ metalsmithing and teaching in South Australia. In 1985 she co-founded the Gray Street Workshop in Adelaide: a co-operative access jewellery workshop whose 'members were drawn together out of a shared belief that jewellery has the potential to express personal, social and environmental politics; issues beyond the purely decorative'. She has exhibited consistently since the early 1980s, and in 1990 studied with contemporary netsuke carvers in Japan.The carvings were made at the Gray Street Workshop in 1992 as part of the travelling exhibition 'Lifeboat'. The carvings derive in part from Truman's interest in the Japanese netsuke tradition of small carved ornaments such as belt-toggles.
'Catherine Truman's work is informed by a strong political consciousness, tempered by a lyrical approach to imagery and materials'. In 'Fish Carvings', an exhibition....in 1987, she used the fish as a metaphor for continued growth, carving a series of works which dealt with the moral and physical dilemmas faced by the aged in contemporary Western society. More recent works have dealt with social issues such as housing, shelter and ecological concerns.
The carving process is a vital part of Catherine's work. As well as finding the process deeply satisfying she cites the choice of material and technique, which forms the foundation of the richly detailed surfaces of her work, as an important 'tool' for establishing a relationship between her subject matter and the viewer.' (Anne Brennan, in catalogue 'Lifeboat', 1992). These works appear to be metaphors to do with questions of, for example, inner and outer lives, journeys, passengers, ambiguous narratives, individuals and society.
In a phone interview in July 1995, Truman added that making these works was a natural progression for her as a jeweller as they are about the body rather than for the body. They are a very personal expression of her interpretation of the spirit and flesh - a movement on from the more literal translation of shelter and housing of previous work. Truman's choice of materials is deliberate. She uses wood because the audience understands the material and forms a basic relationship with it, and mother-of-pearl because it is suitable for the fish, but also because it is seductive, it seduces the viewer with its colour and surface. 'Piecemeal' is to do with the fragility of the spirit; the broken fish is to do with mortality and questions of immortality.
This work was owned by the artist, Catherine Truman. The carving travelled to a number of exhibition venues in Australia during 1993-1994, including the Craftspace Gallery of the Crafts Council of New South Wales in March 1995.