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Under That Cloud

For an exhibition born out of long waits in departure lounges, Under That Cloud is refreshingly packed with diverse ideas and a spectrum of emotional reactions. The jewellery featured in the collection is the work of 18 international artists who were stranded together in Mexico City, under the dark cloud of volcanic ash that closed the skies over Europe in April 2010.

The artists’ responses to being stuck in Mexico fluctuate: many embracing an extended stay in the city, the thoughts of others are clearly at home, and in some cases, the skies.

It is the artists who capture Mexico that conquer as the stand out pieces of the collection. This is largely down to the animated personality of Mexican culture emanating from the iconography, typified in the Lucha Libre stylings of Caroline Broadhead’s beaded bracelets.

The most attractive item of jewellery, Jiro Kamata’s brooch Arboresque, channels the intricacy of Arabesque architecture into fluid brush strokes of coral red across a pair of recycled camera lenses. Kamata provides a view Mexico through the eyes of Japan producing an exquisite form.

Conversely it is the artists whose work remains fixated on themes of isolation and escape that prove the weakest. Lucy Sarneel of Finland’s convoluted presentation of a plane, a pile of rocks and a bird all seated on a multi-coloured crucifix is a particularly extreme example of this. Whilst the ideas are all present, they are ultimately vague, bordering on confused.

Despite featuring some standout pieces that are effortlessly decorated with international finesse, largely the collection lacks in statement. Too often the jewellery is distracted by trying to suggest and represent too much. Inevitably emotional, apocalyptic responses are trumped by a few simple ideas that capture a place and time from a truly international perspective.

Tags: Art Galleries and Exhibitions, Manchester Art Gallery, Under That Cloud

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