Beige, Mette Saabye Gallery, Copenhagen
Until 6 June 2020
by Tina Anette Madsen
The contemporary jewellery exhibition BEIGE, curated by jewellery maker Helen Clara Hemsley is quite simply about the colour beige. The exhibition concept is based on the notion that everyone seems to have an opinion about, and a relationship to the colour beige, albeit it of a negative or positive nature, and that beige elicits a wide range of reactions. BEIGE is about the colour and the feelings associated with the word - a monochrome exhibition where all the works are created in various shades of beige.
The colour beige – the origin of the word is believed to mean ’a blended colour’ or ’a colour of blended substances’, in Late Latin biga – ’a two-horse chariot’. Beige is both a colour and a non-colour, a blended colour, a double colour. It truly is ’a two-horse chariot’. Beige can both attract attention to itself, and meld into the surroundings, becoming almost ’invisible’.
Unifying and indistinct, indescribable and indefinable. It blends in with the soft shades and tones - tender and embracing or taunting in nuances that are sometimes considered ugly. A soothing colour for some, while others find it boring. The colour beige – or the colours beige? Because beige resists being defined and ‘tamed’, beige can - or doesn’t want to - be framed or captured - a discrepant colour.
In a sense, a completely ‘quiet’ colour that doesn’t make much of an impact, ‘invisible’ and unformed, and at the same time encapsulating a strong presence in its cacophonic indefinability.
You can see this in the jewellery and body-related objects created for BEIGE. The varying nuances represent a degree of responsiveness, an ability to capture a comprehensive range of shades.
The works respond to beige in a variety of ways, some politically, some humorously, some with focus on the body, or gender, or from a personal perspective – with a focus on beige being used by companies when producing skin-coloured underwear, to musings about traditional British sausage rolls, and clothes pegs that pay homage to the deity of the domestic, and the camouflage effect of pearls and neckties.
Many of the artists work with the colour of the skin, the sensuality of the body and reveal what would otherwise be intimate moments in the public realm, but in a secret and private way, for example with beads made out of photos of the artist’s body, or toilet paper, powder and a mirror that have been transformed into a brooch. Others work with the organic and nature: inspired by the desert’s shades of beige, the Scottish highlands, aquatic plants and coral reefs.
And in such an array of materials: hazelnut wood, rice bran, tangerine peel, pinecones, eggshells, sand, soapstone, human hair. Silk, silk thread, leather, Shetland wool, cotton, embroidery thread, toilet paper, wooden clothes pegs, brass, pearls, gold, silver, mirrors. The diversity is great, surprising and humorous, and yet all the objects are characterised by one factor: beige. Familiar materials and everyday objects are often combined in new ways that take us by surprise – playing with our understanding of the recognisable, making it abstract and subtle. Others use catchy titles, which refer to both familiar and unexpected materials and shapes, like Duvet Days, Dickpick, Beige-Face or Beige Beauty.
The works all have the distinguishing feature that they are subtle, fragile or raw. Some of them are so delicate that they would break after just one day’s use; others are robust and works in silver, turned beige. The exhibition BEIGE shows how vibrantly, diversely and sophistically the colour beige can be perceived and interpreted – and the breadth of the associations that arise – a two-horse chariot.
People wearing all beige clothing tend to escape my attention and fade out into the environment around them. This of course may be exactly their point. Choosing to wear beige camouflage outfits vanishing into your surroundings is definitely the idea.
The plain pearl necklace and the average tie perhaps have the same effect, making the wearer more anonymous, helping them blend in with the masses.
Based on these reflections I have produced the neckpiece CAMOUFLAGE - a portable, and ironic commentary on these traditional male and female adornments.
Neckpiece: CAMOUFLAGE, 2020
14K gold, silver, cobber, enamel, rhodolite garnets, resin, pearls, elastic band
38 X 14 X 2 cm
Photo by Dorte Krogh