Museum of Brisbane


  • 15 Nov 2013 — 27 Apr 2014
  • Exhibition now closed

Six pairs of Queensland’s finest visual artists collaborate for the first time for Silver. Each duo — a leading photographer and artisan jeweller — consider the differences and commonalities in their practices to present new artworks inspired by our city.


In Silver, the artists have explored the use of this precious metal during the creative process to shed new light on the historical significance of silver in art forms. The works reflect on the many stories that hold Brisbane’s past and present together including the social traditions of Brisbane life in a bygone era, the threads of our Aboriginal past that influence today and historical photographs, medals, and icons of Australiana.

Michael Cook / Ari Athans
Ray Cook / Matt Dwyer
Marian Drew / Barbara Heath
Andrea Higgins / Madeleine Brown
Deb Mansfield / Sheridan Kennedy
Carl Warner / Nadine Cameron

Curated by Jacqueline Armitstead


Michael Cook / Ari Athans

b. 1968, Brisbane Qld

Cook is an Indigenous photo media artist based on the Sunshine Coast. After working for a number of years as a commercial photographer, Cook shifted his focus to creating artworks that connect with his Indigenous heritage, the Bidjara people of South-West Queensland. His practice aims to shift post-colonial critiques of historical relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples directly after settlement. Cook constructs an ethereal world, without time, creating a utopia: a place devoid of race and where Indigenous people are placed in all possible social roles. It is a re-imagined colonial Australia, a place where the Aboriginal figure is often the conqueror and the colonized. Cook’s first exhibition was held in 2010 and featured images of all 27 prime ministers of Australia re-imaged with distinctly Aboriginal features. This wry and subversive exhibition titled Through my eyes attracted national attention. Since then, Cook has soared onto both the national and international contemporary art scenes. His work has received a number of awards including the Western Australian Indigenous Art Award and has been included in a number of collections such as the National Gallery of Australia. In 2012, Cook represented Australia in the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art.

Michael Cook courtesy Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane and Diane Tanzer Gallery and Projects, Melbourne

b. 1965, Sydney NSW

Prior to training as a jeweller, Athans was a geologist working in the mining and exploration industry. Athans sees the progression from geology to jewellery design as a natural one and her knowledge of geology has impacted greatly on her art practice. Aside from geology, her practice also engages her passion for fashion, graphic design and her Greek heritage. Athan’s minimalist approach to design reflects the randomness and order that occurs in crystal growth forms. Her practice engages primary forms and materials such as stone, precious metal with a strong use of unusual gemstone cuts and raw geologic samples such as basalt, rough diamonds, emeralds and crystals. After twelve years exhibiting and selling her jewellery nationally and internationally, Athans opened her highly successful gallery and workshop in Brisbane in 2004. Athans is humbled by the age of some of the rocks and materials she uses and sees her role as a custodial one. She reorganises precious metals and objects in readiness for their next stage of existence.

Ari Athans courtesy of Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane

Ray Cook / Matt Dwyer

b. 1962, Townsville Qld

Cook is one of Australia’s most influential and significant photo media artists with a practice spanning more than 20 years. His practice is synonymous with innovative experimentation and photographic tableaux photography utilizing the construction of hand-toned print techniques. These artworks trace the definition of queer life, the impact of HIV/AIDS on the community and shifting perceptions of sufferers in the community at large. More recently, Cook’s work has explored the role of the economy as well as the impact of consumerism and commodification in the constitution of identity. Cook has exhibited widely nationally and internationally. He is currently completing his PhD at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University where he is also an Associate Lecturer. In 2007, the Queensland Centre for Photography published a major monograph on Cook’s work titled Ray Cook – Diary of a Fortunate Man.

b. 1975, Brisbane Qld

Matt Dwyer is a highly acclaimed contemporary designer working predominantly in jewellery, lighting and object-based design. Dwyer has also engaged in sound and installation-based practice. In 1999, Dwyer graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art – Gold and Silversmithing from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In his final year, he was honoured by Object, Australia’s premier contemporary craft and design organization; these honours are awarded to the most outstanding graduating students in an Australian university art and design school. Dwyer has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and has taught widely within the arts and design sectors. Dwyer’s exhibition practice has explored notions of materiality, adornment, beauty, masculine identity and childhood memory. In 2010, Dwyer founded fio his highly successful gallery and studio in Brisbane where he also provides teaching and workshops to the community.

Marian Drew / Barbara Heath

b. 1960, Bundaberg Qld

Drew is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary photographic artists with a practice spanning more than 20 years. Drew’s art practice in photography, video, light drawing and sculpture explores the body, memory, cultural identity and the relationship between humanity and nature. The artist has examined the process and practice of European still life painting in her constructed still life photographs that interject ‘road kill’ as a symbol of the ever expanding impact of humans on our natural environment. More recently, Drew’s artwork has examined our domestic consumption of decorative and ornamental objects as a means of distraction from everyday life. The objects are then housed in a given landscape to pose questions about the relationship between object, history and memory. Drew has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and her work is held in many major public and private collections including the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. Drew was chosen to represent Australia in the first Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. She is widely published and is presently Associate Professor at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University.

Marian Drew courtesy Diane Tanzer Gallery and Projects, Melbourne Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide

b. 1954, Sydney NSW

Heath is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary jewellers. Her combined career as a jeweller, designer and sculptor has spanned more than 30 years, maintaining a distinctive approach to creating objects. These objects are imbued with personal and historical narratives, metaphor and symbolism and explore the notion of the body. Heath’s oeuvre is also inspired by the poetry and materiality of Queensland’s vernacular architecture. Heath is a formidable collaborator and has worked closely with private clients, architects and designers to create personal objects that not only adorn the body but sculptural objects that adorn public buildings and spaces. Heath completed her training in gold and silversmithing at RMIT, Melbourne in 1972 and established her studio in Brisbane in 1983. Heath has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and her work was showcased in a mid-career survey exhibition held at Queensland Art Gallery in 2005-2006. Heath has also undertaken a number of major public commissions including Net, a large scale sculpture integrated into the façade of the Neville Bonner Building, Brisbane. Heath’s objects are highly coveted and the power of her practice is widely acknowledged. This success is due to a rigorous and enduring practice, not lost in time and space but firmly established in place.

Andrea Higgins / Madeleine Brown

b. 1968, Gold Coast Qld

Higgins’ photographic practice has been preoccupied with the documentation of familial and historical found objects. The objects of interest are often used in traditional female craft pursuits such as Victorian lace collar work, doilies, table runners and clothing as well as glass and crystal objects used by females in the domestic interior. Higgins’ practice provides a reminder of a shared experience and yet engages in the idea of transforming historical patterns through contemporary interpretation. Through the use of photograms – a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive photographic paper and then exposing it to light – the documented objects appear ghost-like and hauntingly beautiful. This transformation also acts as a metaphor for the development of the photogram process itself, particularly its early 19th Century exploration to gain scientific record of natural objects. Higgins has exhibited locally and nationally. In 2011, she held a major solo exhibition of her photograms titled Memento Mori at Obscura Gallery, Melbourne. Higgins graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Art (Photography) from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in 1988 where she currently reviewing her practice within the context of a Masters Degree.

b. 1979, Sydney NSW

In 2001, Brown graduated with a Bachelor of Gold and Silversmithing from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Shortly after, Brown founded a successful studio in Brisbane where she worked as a designer jeweller for almost ten years. More recently, Brown has been practicing from a studio adjacent to her home on the outskirts of Brisbane. Her practice explores personal stories and mythologies and she enjoys the process of collaborating and engaging with clients to learn their own individual stories. She is interested in traditional female craft pursuits suits as Victorian textiles, needlework, embroidery and lace-making such as tatting: frivolité à l’aiguille. These skills inspired her Lace Series, which saw the transformation of handmade cotton lace into silver through the process of casting. Brown’s aim was to create a more permanent memento of this disappearing artform. Brown has exhibited widely and undertaken a range of private commissions and a large-scale memorial commission for the Mater Mothers Hospital in South Brisbane.

Deb Mansfield / Sheridan Kennedy

b. 1976, Mt Isa, Qld

Mansfield’s primary focus as an artist is on ideas evoked by littoral zones (geographical zones that extend from the high water mark to permanently submerged shorelines) and their relationship to the domestic.  Growing up near mangroves and tidal plains, Mansfield’s work has become defined by these and similar geographies. Subsequently, the artist has focused on regions that have been pigeonholed as antitheses to ‘exotic’ landscapes. The sites of research have included Moreton Bay (Queensland), the Mississippi River Delta (Louisiana), the Tamar Valley (Launceston), and McIvers, Newfoundland (Canada). Littoral zones allow Mansfield to explore the slippage between land and sea – being not wholly one or the other. This dualism has become the central theme in her practice. Mansfield graduated with a Bachelor of Honours in Photography (First Class) from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in 2003 and is currently undertaking a Masters of Research of Fine Arts, College of Fine Arts (COFA), University of NSW (APA Scholarship). She has exhibited widely since 2011 and is presently sessional lecturer at COFA and the University of Technology, Sydney.

b. 1964, Winton Qld

Kennedy’s practice explores something of the social life of jewels and the seductive interaction between jewellery and the wearer. Kennedy has a long held fascination with maps, exotic insects and unusual species. The materials Kennedy utilizes, such as feathers, suggest the form of insects and rough-cut gemstones reference miniature other worlds. She combines the sensory qualities of decorative elements and natural materials with an interest in engineering and kinetic devices. As a result, her sculptural objects and jewellery explore the resemblance between organic and mechanical forms to intrigue and delight the wearer. Kennedy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery and Silversmithing from the Queensland College of Art in 1987. Her work is featured in a number of collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. She has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. In 2010, Kennedy was awarded a PhD (Creative Arts) from the University of Sydney.

Carl Warner / Nadine Cameron

b. 1965, Brisbane Qld

Warner’s is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary photo media artists. He has been practicing photography for over 20 years. During this time he has been engaged in the observation of random patterns and surfaces as they appear in urban, industrial and natural environments. Through observation he documents the raw beauty of industrialised materials and structures to create beautifully abstract landscapes. He is renowned for his minimalist and formalist style of photography. Warner has exhibited extensively nationally and in 2006, Sensing the Surface, a major retrospective exhibition was held at the University of Queensland Art Museum. As curator Dr Sally Butler writes, ‘”Warner’s photographs examine the surfaces of objects framing a language out of overlooked details and transforming commonplace space into a space of exceptional insight” (Sensing the Surface, 2006). Warner holds a Masters of Visual Arts from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University where he has been a sessional lecturer in Art Theory since 2007.

b. 1973, Brisbane Qld

Cameron is an emerging contemporary artist who utilises materials traditionally associated with gold and silversmithing, like precious metals, semi precious and precious stones, to create artworks. Through her practice, Cameron references both the hierarchy and traditional codes evident in organised structures in fashion and society. More recently, Cameron has been engaged in the design and fabrication of contemporary medals reflecting an ongoing interest in fashion, body adornment and the codes that influence fashion design, etiquette and heraldry. The semiotic meaning of a medal is also questioned in the creation of these works. They pose the question – does a medal have to be awarded to take on meaning? Within the order and structures of these handcrafted objects, Cameron explores an avid interest in scrying, divination and universal systems, astronomy, celestial bodies, beauty and the ambiguity between our desire for order and predictability and the seemingly random aspects of nature. Cameron trained in Gold and Silversmithing at The Goldsmiths’ School. She also holds a Diploma of Music from the Conservatorium of Music and a Bachelor of Arts – Double Major in Art History from University of Queensland.


Museum of Brisbane’s education program, Engage, aims to open minds, entertain and excite students. As with all our exhibitions, Silver facilitates learning in an educational, fun and memorable way. To learn more about curriculum links and available education tours visit the education page.



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