Warwick Freeman


Photograph of Warwick Freeman.

Artist statement

Souvenirs OF ‘53

I’m writing this on the day I turn 53 and it being 2006, means I was born in 1953.

1953 was the year scientists worked out the structure of the DNA molecule, and as my own DNA started (or is that continued?) building its own twisting helix in that same year, I’m fond of noting events that occurred in 1953.

There are the big history events, like the development in our understanding of DNA, the first ascent of Everest, and Elizabeth Windsor’s ascent of the English throne, but other examples like those that occur in the history of art, have collected around the pieces in this exhibition.

The first is the building of the little chapel designed by Corbusier at Ronchamp in Eastern France (its a remarkable building - it sits like a gorgeous brooch on the southernmost spur of the Vosges Mountains). By 1953 it would have been more than half way to completion. The shape of the roof is apparently inspired by an upturned crab shell, Corbusier wrote; ’The shell of a crab picked up on Long Island near New York in 1946 is lying on my drawing board. It will become the roof of the chapel’.

This curious practice of taking objects from the natural world and pressing them into use as other forms is a game I play in my own work.

Another example - in 1953 Henri Matisse made a collage called ‘Souvenirs of Oceania’ - a brightly coloured piece from his ‘cut out’ series - it refers to his journeying to Tahiti in the 1930s. It’s another kind of image morphing - an experience of place, a memory, invoked years later as another form.

It’s interesting to me that he calls this work a souvenir - I often look on my practice as a kind of souvenir making and this recent work of mine seems to me to be souvenirs of that mid twentieth century art history that the examples above come from. This history is the gene pool that I dip into when I make - it forms the DNA of my art.

Warwick Freeman - 2006

Images of work

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Artist bio

Warwick Freeman was born in Nelson 1953. Largely self-taught, he took up jewellery-making in Perth, Australia, in 1972, following two years of travel in Europe and Asia. Returning to New Zealand in 1973, He initially established a workshop in Nelson before moving to Auckland in 1975.

After a brief stint as a manufacturing jeweller he first joined Lapis, a co-operative jewellery workshop, in 1977, and was a partner in Auckland’s well known jewellery co-operative Fingers from 1978 until 2003.

In the early 1980s Warwick emerged as a leading practitioner in the development of a significant style of jewellery-making that is now recognised internationally as a unique expression of New Zealand culture. This work is characterised by the use of natural materials such as bone, stone and shell.

Warwick regularly exhibits in New Zealand and Australia, as well as in Europe and the USA. His works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Auckland Museum; the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt; The Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; The Houston Museum of Fine Arts; The Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

His international standing was recognised by the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation, based at the Stedelijk Museum, who named him their 2002 Laureate.

The Arts Foundation of New Zealand named him an Arts Laureate in 2002 Founding Chair of Objectspace - a centre for contemporary craft and design in Auckland in 2004.

Major survey exhibitions with publications include: Owner’s Manual: Jewellery by Warwick Freeman 1995 and Given; Jewellery by Warwick Freeman 2004.

Freeman works and lives in Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand.


Galleries featuring Warwick Freeman's work: