David Bielander : Koi for Joy: Gallery S O London

3 May - 30 June 2013

Pig, snake, rat, beetle, tyre, sausage, prawn; the subjects of David Bielander's figurative jewellery are readily recognisable ­- a selection of archetypes which could be derived from a child's illustrated primer. Bielander is not interested in animals per se, but uses them for their universal accessibility, a category of simple concepts, readily recognised and identified. They are the hooks to draw us into a relationship with the work: the incongruity of wearing slug or pig or sausage prompts comment, demands debate, precipitates social interaction. And perhaps their status as contemporary jewellery pieces is initially overlooked in this process, to the artist's great satisfaction. At first these works with their different materials and approaches seem the product of an extraordinarily diverse practice, but there is an absolute consistency of vision here: David Bielander's work is underpinned by an integrity of design and a knowing purpose which observes the conventions of adornment and the desire to communicate, whilst presenting a unique aesthetic, startling in its graphic clarity.


For all their controversial engagement with representation, these objects are designed for the body; it is of utmost importance that they are wearable and comfortable, react well with the wearers, and give them pleasure. The surface of the helical 'Koi', for example, is made up of what we recognise instantly to be thumbtacks; we know them to be sharp, but the bracelet is articulated and flexible, lined with the softest of leathers to make the koi a joy to wear.


For Bielander, the material, however surprising and unconventional, is very much at the service of the object, and is selected not for its value but for its graphic appropriateness: a low grade steel spoon for the Dung Beetle, for example, cut and manipulated without loss of substance, enables an alchemical metamorphosis, from spoon to beetle.  Bielander makes beautifully crafted objects, but wishes the delight of recognising and connecting with them to be removed from ideas of workmanship or of effort, or of the value of craft. Thus the patinated surface treatment of the Slug belies the fact that it is formed of beaten sterling silver, a delicate cupped shape given a sluggish sheen.


Bielander's work comes to London at a time when the graphic pop art of Roy Lichtenstein is enjoying renewed prominence. Like Lichtenstein, Bielander makes works which are deceptively simple, presented in a clear, pared-down language derived from archetypes, cartoons and signs. In his hands, commonplace imagery is raised to a higher purpose, through refinement and balance of design, careful manipulation of context, and sheer confidence of delivery. His work finesses the ordinary into something remarkable.


Sara Roberts, April 2013