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Thursday, February 21, 2008

First breathe . . .

. . . then take in the exquisite beauty in the work of Jim Kelso. Actually, you will breathe, because Kelso's work makes you feel relaxed. At the same time, his art is breath-taking. Contradictory, eh?

Working in ferrous (containing iron) and non-ferrous metals, he forges, chases, hammers and burnishes life into his pieces.

The "expression of Nature" he strives for is evident in every single piece I've seen. In his artist's statement, Mr. Kelso declares that he seeks to
"Work in gold, silver, non-ferrous alloys, iron and steel using the Japanese and European techniques of fabrication, casting, engraving, carving, inlay, coloration, patination, vitreous enameling and blade shaping. Also, [work] in wood and fossil ivory using carving, inlay, engraving and fabrication techniques to complete the piece."

"First Rain." Pendant by Jim Kelso.

As a young art student in the 70s, I recall well my drawing teacher reminding me to be very conscious of the "negative space," that is, the blank space on the surface on which I was drawing or painting, or the "air" around a piece being molded or sculpted. It's a very Asian concept - the yin and the yang: male and female, negative and positive, black and white, heaven and earth. One cannot exist without the other.

Using fundamental Japanese metalworking art theories and techniques, he creates captured moments of nature that whisper gently but leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

"Rabbit Over The Waves Brooch" (after painting by Zeshin) 18k gold, copper, pure silver, shakudo. 58mm x 28mm - 2.3" x 1.1" by Jim Kelso

Shibata Zeshin, innovative Japanese artist of the Edo Period and early Meiji Restoration, serves as an inspiration for the brooch pictured above. The rabbit is often used as a representative of the moon in Japanese art, and this piece depicts that plainly to me. The moon over the water. Here is one of Zeshin's beautiful paintings. Note once more, the negative space:

"Hawk and the Warning Bird." (Original Title: Yukiyanagi taka no zu) Japanese, Meiji era, late 19th century Shibata Zeshin, Japanese, 1807–1891. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk. From the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

I find a wonderful contradiction in his work in that the noise, effort and even violence necessary in forging metalwork, and the hardness and sharpness of the materials used, has created objects of quiet and soft serenity. Moths and simple butterflies are a particular favorite of the artist, and these two pieces depicting them on ferns are perfect examples of my meaning:

Top: "Japanese Sword-fern Pin." 18k gold, copper, shakudo moth. Length 7cm - 2.75" Price on request. Bottom: "Fern and Butterfly Pin." 18k gold, copper, shakudo. 6.4cm (2.5").

Death finds its place among his pieces as well, as it should. There is no renewal of life if there is no death. The yin cannot exist without the yang.

"Ebony Leaf" by Jim Kelso

I've always been a great admirer of an artist who successfully uses hard media to create fluid objects. Gingkos and maples are personal favorites of mine, and Mr. Kelso recreates them in mouth-watering detail. The use of the translucent horn to create a gossamer effect is stunning.

Left: "Gingko Brooch." 18k gold, carved horn, moonstones 66mm x 54mm - 2.6" x 2.1." Right: "Samsara Brooch." 18k gold, carved horn 63mm x 44mm - 2.5" x 1.75."

"Samsara" is a Sanskrit word for the concept of rebirth/reincarnation - the cycle of life. Thus the maple "helicopter" seeds, the object of renewal for one living thing.

Jim Kelso's background is as diverse as the work he does. He is a metalsmith, a jeweler, sculptor, engraver. . . but he does so much more than these things, not limiting himself to jewelry by any means. His work is in the collections of a number of very famous people, not the least of which are Sylvester Stallone, David Crosby and David Mamet. Their Imperial Highnesses, Prince and Princess Takamodo of Japan own his work, and his work is on display in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

If all of this weren't enough, he is one of those generous artists who shares his techniques with the world. His website features the Japanese patination and inlay techniques he uses to make his incredible work.

If you love Japanese art and metalwork, or if you just find gazing at beautiful art enjoyable (duh, who doesn't?), visit Jim Kelso's site and feast your eyes on his art. But take note of his extensive experience and dedication to continuing traditional Japanese theories and techniques as well. And enjoy.

1 comment:

FrenchGardenHouse said...

That is the most amazing work, so beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing his work, Becky. I love coming to your blog, it shows me a whole world I otherwise would miss out on.
xo Lidy