art curator and writer
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Double Happiness

 

    Double Happiness 

Moniek Schrijer, Double Happiness installation view, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

 
 

The analogue whirr and snap of a hidden carousel slide projector fills the gallery, evoking memories of family gatherings in the dark and stories told about exotic locations.  

While nostalgic for those of us born in the 20th century, the physical slide has become defunct in today’s digital world and is no longer an effective way to capture images.  Look closely and you will see the ghostly flash of cryptic symbols, lost in translation and looping in a darkened corner, echoed again on the wall as a series of photograms.

The projector’s continuous hum hovers alongside three abstract forms built with sculpting cement. Placed low on floating black plinths, they conjure up a curious hybrid of Ian Athfield’s iconic architecture and Stonehenge.  A soft glow emanates from underneath their bases mimicking the latest trends in interior decorating—led lights and floating kitchen islands— bringing to mind the phrase “there’s no accounting for taste”.

Moniek Schrijer, Double Happiness installation view, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

It is from these elements that Moniek Schrijer’s newest body of contemporary jewellery has found its way into the world. The necklaces, carefully assembled cut outs reminiscent of Richard Killeen and Henri Matisse, are physical forms of the projected images extracted from the slides, while the perfectly square, brass brooches are examples of the slide transparencies themselves.  This suite of jewellery is completed by a group of rings, miniature silver and bronze pieces cast from 3D printed replicas of the larger architectural forms. 

Verging on dystopian, this scene embodies Schrijer’s experimentation with the increasingly blurred line between the authentic and the replica seen in early work such as Napalm Death (2013), where industrial materials mimic crystals and shells on an oversized necklace. In her exhibition Iconic Iconic (2015), she turned Dutch national symbols such as clogs and tulips—now kitsch souvenirs made in China—back into meaningful objects, while with Tablet Of (2015), she inscribed a small porcelain dish with another set of mysterious symbols.  Equal parts emoji and hieroglyph they reflect the way technological advances have influenced communication. The resemblance between the dish and the smartphone is just as uncanny as the square slide and the Instagram viewfinder. 

It is no coincidence that both China’s ancient traditions (such as the use of porcelain) and its unprecedented reputation for manufacturing, have been surfacing in Schrijer’s work alongside explorations of her Dutch heritage and New Zealand culture. Customarily symbolizing joy and marriage, the Chinese character for Double Happiness has been appropriated incessantly by business giants. They brand everything from fashion to cigarettes, soy sauce and jewellery, capitalising on the sentimentality attached to this ancient sign and its English translation. Schrijer riffs off this binary relationship; her rings cast from 3D printed models become keepsakes you can wear in memory of this exhibition, like Eiffel Tower earrings after a trip to Paris. Similarly, her photograms become mementos of the projected symbols: as a form of photography they represent the history of a medium that can never quite be trusted, yet which is constantly being used to recall the past. 

Moniek Schrijer,  Double Happiness Rings , 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

Moniek Schrijer, Double Happiness Rings, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

Throughout human history, jewellery has been worn as a symbol of self-expression and identification. In Double Happiness, Schrijer connects this function of jewellery with architecture, commercial production and the reproduced image.  She is interested in the shift of meaning that occurs when the same subject is rendered across several forms of media. Juxtaposing the analogue and digital, the hand-made and the commercial, she unfolds the ebb and flow of value in the cross-overs between technological change, cultural association, taste and memory.  

Moniek Schrijer was born in Wellington, New Zealand Aotearoa in 1983. Since completing a Bachelor of Applied Arts and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Jewellery and Printmaking at Whitireia New Zealand, she has been the recipient of numerous awards and residencies. Her most notable accolades include the 2016 Herbert Hofmann Preis and the 2015 Francoise van den Bosch, Studio Rian de Jong Artist in Residence. Schrijer was selected to be a part of Talente in 2014 and was also the only New Zealand exhibitor at the Marzee Annual International Graduation Show in the Netherlands in 2013. She was the 2013 artist in residence at Toi Poneke in Wellington and the recipient of the 2012 Fingers Whitireia award. Schrijer has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout New Zealand Aotearoa, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.  Her work is in the collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and The Dowse Art Museum.

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This essay was first written for The National, Christchurch and is a response to the exhibition "Double Happiness" by Moniek Schrijer.

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