22.04.15 – 13.06.15

Bare Essentials


Julia Muggenburg is pleased to announce Bare Essentials, an exhibition focusing on jewellery from the Belmacz archive through the eyes of May Cornet.


Artist May Cornet is selecting her favourite gems from the Belmacz collection of precious statement pieces. Ideally suited to scrutinise treasures, Cornet has a long standing relationship with jewellery and heirlooms. There are jewels passed down in her own family that have stood the test of time. As a four year old Cornet received a pair of antique Greek gold earrings as a gift from her maternal great-grandmother, Lady Kathleen Epstein. They arrived posted by regular mail in a brown paper envelope as her first jewellery bequest. Connecting instantly with the ancient, hand fashioned, gold gems, this became a seminal experience for her.


A central piece in the exhibition is Portable Garden 2006, a box fashioned from oak containing a set of black sculptures, two geometric forms and a bridge all cut in ebony, three miniature ducks and a mono-print of green grass that folds into a silver leather case. Asked to talk about the origins of this piece Cornet says that “I was doing a residency, staying in rather a bleak B&B and I had the idea of needing something beautiful in my room that I would be able to take with me anywhere. I chose to work with elemental forms that are reminiscent of children's wooden play blocks and to limit the palette, there are no flowers in the garden, I left that for the viewer. I always try to strip things back to allow room for the onlooker”.


Jewellery is traditionally steeped in emotion, affection, power and love. The Belmacz jewels are rooted in ancient gem craft traditions. Boldly contemporary, the pieces evoke a twenty-first century take on the status-affirming ceremonial adornments worn by tribal chiefs and patriarchs and all fashioned by hand in and around London, Julia Muggenburg creates 21st century artists' jewellery. Inspired by Belmacz' jewellery archive (which goes back 15 years to the inception) Cornet has put forward art of her past as well as one piece especially made for Bare Essentials.


Cornet makes works on extreme scales from the minuscule and precise through to the magnificent and grandiose. However both feel natural and convincing. Feather chairs 2014, is an example of the delicacy characterising her work. “I wanted the chairs to be elegant yet modest at the same time. At first glance, it's probably not clear what they are made of, but then you realise that they are made from pigeon feathers and pins. As I made them I kept thinking of a William Morris chair I had grown up with”. “I ask myself endless questions about the work until what I am left with is what is essential. It is with these eyes that I am scouring the Belmacz archive”.


Cornet says of Muggenburg, “Everytime I visit the Belmacz treasure trove, Muggenburg puts something wonderful in my hand, whether it be an Ethiopian prayer bead, a hand-cut Cartier sequin made from coral or a carved Netsuke, she transports me to a whole world of story, scent and sounds. It is my London secret.”


Perhaps everyone ought to have an indispensable jewel to behold and treasure which constitutes one's basic expression. Those precious gems are my expertise.
— Julia Muggenburg



16.06.15 – 29.08.15

Paul Housley: Journeys to the Interior


My Victories are great and many
Vast are my Empires
24 inches of table top
And all the Light my eyes can eat
From one single barred window
— Paul Housley

Paul Housley's short poem The Painters Boast provides us with a good introduction to his latest solo show, Journeys to the Interior, at the Belmacz gallery. The poem is an ode to the artist’s craft and a romanticised take on the solitary life of most painters’ studios.

The works in Belmacz summer show concentrate on depictions of the artist’s studio. Though not finely rendered or accurate architectural depictions, these paintings are imagined, psychological studies of where worlds both expand and contract. The exhibition investigates what an artist wants to depict in their work, their interior dialogue, and what occurs with each working day. Housley also explores how artists in their studios address the accumulation of time, and the endless hours invested pursuing the indefinable. The paintings are littered with the tools of painter's crafts along with the ephemeral contents of their studio. These objects have been gathered over many years, and are kept as 'familiars', good luck charms, or actual practical components to be used in the making of work.

Each work describes the ebb and flow of time, the shifting components of atmosphere, light, success and failure. The studio is a place of light and shadows, of things briefly glimpsed and of objects acutely studied. It is many things: a retreat, a factory, a sanctuary, and sometimes a self-imposed prison. The work talks of flux, and the chaotic nature of the studio, and the desire to make some kind of order and sense of the hours spent in pursuit of creative freedom. It also deals with the notions of the artistic ego, which is seen both as a necessity and a burden.

There is a scene in the final moments of the 1957 sci-fi film The Incredible Shrinking Man, where the protagonist who has been gradually shrinking throughout the story, reaches a point where he is about to become infinitesimal and disappear into his environment. He is becoming a part of the universe, and at this moment he accepts his fate, and is at ease with himself and his place in the cosmos. In much the same way, the artist accepts his role in the solitary pursuit he has chosen and is comfortable with his desire to journey into the centre of his interior life and in someways 'disappear' where life and work are so intertwined that it becomes impossible to separate the two.