Panel, 'Lost in the crowd 2', metal, designed and made by Pierre Cavalan, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2007
French-Australian jeweller, Pierre Cavalan (born 1954) is committed to exploring the many possibilities that come from working with recycled materials. Badges, buttons, medals, imitation gemstones, fragments of costume jewellery and metal cast-offs have all been incorporated into his work, which has won several major awards and commissions. His practice reflects not only his attitude towards recycling and sustainability but also his deep appreciation for the history of the materials that he uses.
This piece, titled 'Lost in the Crowd 2', is from his current series of panels assembled from recycled metal fragments that are impressed with stylised faces bearing different expressions. The work comments on the many individual attitudes and philosophies that contribute to society. Cavalan first began to work in this style in 1999, inspired by the paintings of his father-in-law, Phillip Martin, that represent a neutral and universal human face. His series progressed further when his bracelets of interlinking metal faces were photographed side by side. The image encouraged him to create a similar layered effect on panels.
For Cavalan, working with recycled materials helps him overcome what he calls 'the white page syndrome' - the uncertainty of how to begin a work on a blank page. Ready-made materials provide him with a creative starting point, allowing him to explore ways in which to experiment with texture and to transform the mundane and everyday. His favourite material is pastel-coloured anodised aluminium, often found on fridges, freezers and hi-fi systems of the 1960s and 70s. He also uses street signs, number plates, cutlery, baking trays, biscuit tins, teapots and other items purchased by the kilo from scrap-metal merchants or collected from opportunity shops and footpaths around Sydney. He recycles any material that he does not use.
Cavalan makes his panels at his workshop in a converted Streets ice-cream factory in Turrella, Sydney, which he shares with other artists. He also operates a private workshop in Glebe where he makes his jewellery.
French-Australian jeweller, Pierre Cavalan, made this decorative panel, titled 'Lost in the Crowd II', at his studio in Turrella, Sydney, in 2007. The piece is part of an ongoing series of work made from recycled metal plates embossed with faces bearing different, stylised expressions.
For many years Cavalan has worked almost exclusively with recycled materials, making jewellery from badges, buttons, imitation gemstones and an array of other discarded pieces. He sourced the metal within this series from scrap-metal merchants, second-hand shops and Sydney roadsides, selling and recycling anything that he did not use. He has a remarkable memory of the origin of each piece, whether it comes from an electroplated nickel silver tray, a baking tray, a biscuit tin, a teapot, a street sign or a number plate, which demonstrates his appreciation for the materials he uses.
To begin the production process, Cavalan flattens the metal and cuts it to size with a guillotine. He assembles screws, nails or wire into a facial configuration and uses a 20-tonne hydraulic press to emboss the design into the cut metal. He repeats the process until he fills a shoe box with the plates and then begins to arrange the composition. For Cavalan, this is the most creative and enjoyable stage in the production process as it enables him to experiment with colour, texture and scale.
Since beginning the series in 1999, Cavalan has refined the process and has moved to working exclusively with metals that will withstand humidity and other environmental conditions. In some instances he has recycled old artworks into new ones, including an award-winning panel from 2002 that he disassembled and re-worked into new pieces, including 'Lost in the Crowd II'. The frame surrounding the decorative panel appears to have been reused from another artwork.
Born in France in 1954, Pierre Cavalan arrived in Darwin via Portuguese Timor on 22 December 1974, three days before Cyclone Tracy struck the city. Returning to France, he graduated from the Parisienne jewellery school, BJO (Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie), in 1979 and then worked for Sydney jeweller, Russel McColough, from 1980 to 1985. Since then he has held teaching positions in the United States and at the Enmore School of Design, Sydney.
Cavalan's work is held in a number of Australian and international public collections that include the Imperial War Museum in London, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the State Library of Queensland and the National Museum of Australia. In 1990, the Powerhouse Museum acquired two of his brooches, 'Wedding' and 'Widows Group', which are both made from mixed media (Powerhouse Museum object numbers 90/524 and 90/525).
In 2002 Cavalan won first prize in Junk Love, an annual competition for sustainable art and design sponsored by Reverse Garbage Cooperative Ltd in Marrickville, Sydney. His winning panel, which measured 175 x 110 centimetres, was disassembled and its pieces reused in later artworks, including 'Lost in the Crowd 2'. Cavalan frequently recycles his artwork in this manner.