In the melting pot

Claire Beynon (left) and Kate Alterio at work. Photo supplied.
Claire Beynon (left) and Kate Alterio at work. Photo supplied.
Within unity is diversity ll, charcoal, indian ink, oils and liquin, by Claire Beynon and Kate...
Within unity is diversity ll, charcoal, indian ink, oils and liquin, by Claire Beynon and Kate Alterio.

Artistic worlds meld and weld in Dunedin this week. Nigel Benson previews "Alchemy".

Different artistic disciplines meet in a creative collaboration at The Artist's Room this weekend.

Dunedin artist Claire Beynon and Wellington jeweller Kate Alterio have melded their talents in a unique project which cross-pollinates art.

"We called it 'Alchemy' because of the process and transformation involved," Beynon said this week.

"It's a metaphorical and spiritual journey; a chance to discover, explore the dark places where transformation happens."

An element of the exhibition is transformation through the sharing of experiences and journeys.

Both artists reached into left field for the exhibition, with Beynon teaching Alterio drawing, painting and mark-making skills, and the jeweller introducing the artist to metalworking and jewellery techniques.

"Kate was keen to learn drawing and painting techniques and I hadn't made jewellery before.

"So we decided to embark on a co-mentoring process with each other.

"It's been a really interesting journey.

"I love the mechanics of working with flame and metal - the alchemical nature of it.

"It's quite thrilling and surprisingly complex.

"It might look simple by the time you get to the end of it, but the techniques are pretty challenging.

"I discovered that jewellery-making requires a great deal of patience and that there are certain definitive technical processes one must follow in order to reach a satisfying end.

"There are no shortcuts.

"Whereas with painting, I can just throw myself into a blank page and randomly allow the marks that appear there to lead me.

"Follow where it goes."

The exhibition journeys through individual pieces by the two artists, before passing into a collaborative world where their boundaries and energies merge.

"There was no place for ego in the work.

"It involved a real detachment.

"Neither of us can claim ownership of it [the exhibition], which is nice.

"We both surrendered ourselves and just put everything in a pool and exchanged ideas and images.

"It was a real cross-pollination."

Both artists have signed the collaborative works.

"We wanted to challenge traditional views of attachment and ownership and promote the idea that creative partnerships contain strong elements of gifting."

Beynon was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and studied printmaking at the Chelsea School of Art, in London, in the early 1980s, before completing a bachelor's degree in fine arts at the University of Natal in 1982.

She moved to Dunedin in 1994, where she has established herself as an artist and a poet.

"Writing is an integral part of my creative expression.

"It's the same with art.

"For me, drawing, painting and writing are one and the same continuum; I don't really separate them.

"They're much more kindred disciplines - partners in crime, you might say - than they seem.

"It's a natural relationship," she says.


"Visual work sometimes seems to me to be more open to interpretation than the written word.

"The written word throws out more overt anchors.

"But, with both media, I like to provide keys to another world that people might recognise.

"I am constantly on the lookout for clues in our physical world that might offer a way in.

"Content and mystery sit at my work's core.

"I am drawn to paradoxes, where things appear to be opposite, but are in fact more kindred than they first seem.

"I'm interested in the tension of duality.

"I've alway been interested in light and dark and the dialogue between the physical and the metaphysical; the material world and the spiritual world, a world that isn't visible; that's where I like to travel to.

"I like work that takes a while to read," she says.

"Making art is a way for me to connect the physical and spiritual worlds.

"Each is an expression of an intention to communicate.

"Often they bounce off each other and inform each other.

"If you were to bring the two ends together you'd have a beautiful circle.

"I think these polarities start out apart, but they end up meeting nicely in the middle - balanced on the fulcrum.

"T. S. Eliot wrote: 'At the still point of the turning world is the dance'.

"I reflect on these words often," she says.

See it
"Alchemy" opens at midday on Saturday at The Artist's Room and runs until May 8. The exhibition includes jewellery, wall installations, sculptural works, oil paintings and charcoal and pastel drawings.


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