Retrospect ǀ Celebrating 80: Art in the Hand

by: Nazanean Shirani

06-Jul-17

In March, the Goldsmiths' Centre hosted a special exhibition to celebrate the modern art medal. Celebrating Eighty: Art in the Hand united eighty contemporary art medals by students from UK art colleges with work by renowned Iranian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and his former students in celebration of his 80th Birthday. A surprising and challenging medium for artists and viewers alike, the modern art medal has its roots in the Renaissance tradition of making medals as hand-sized works of art.

Each year over one hundred students from art colleges across the UK - plus one invited academy from a foreign country – submit their finished works to the British Art Medal Society’s Project, which aims to foster the art of bronze casting, to be judged and selected for display. BAMS seeks to encourage and promote the art of medal making and awards a number prizes. Getting Started Alumna Stephanie Holt from Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery won the Grand First Prize for her art medal Weight of the World in 2016. For the first time ever this year’s prize winners were display at the Goldsmiths’ Centre.

Parviz Tanavoli has been a pioneering figure in Iranian art since the 1960s, working across a number of different media, exhibiting widely, and teaching. Over the last decade he has created numerous art medals such as his piece Hand on Hand. The exhibition will showcase a selection of his modern art medals, some of which are in the collection of the British Museum, as well as a small selection of his jewellery. His students have gone on to become artists and teachers, writers and print-makers, and a number of their medals will be shown with Tanavoli’s work, providing a wonderful forum to view work by their UK contemporaries and to join an international discussion of the importance of the art medal.

As renowned silversmith, jeweller and medal maker, Julian Cross explained: “The medal, as object, with all its constraints, can act like a half open door. We, the viewers, are on one side looking through the opening. But the artist has a job to do on the other side, to engage, communicate and express. The narrower the gap in the door makes the artist rise all the more to the challenge, working harder and smarter to be seen and heard. This is when the art medal comes into its element; it can be a highly charged object, beautiful or ugly, it can appear to be as soft as watercolours, as sad as a lock of hair, as violent as an explosion, as political as a revolution, it can sing, shout, whisper, cry and laugh.”

For more information about the British Art Medal Society visit www.bams.org.uk