Octavia Cook - Venerable Heirlooms from the Cook & Co Coffers, 2007
21 November 2007
Venerable Heirlooms from the Cook & Co Coffers, 2007
“I see myself as a jeweller because all my work is jewellery or relates to ideas about jewellery. I’m interested in the perception of value – both monetary and sentimental – and how interchanging the real with the fake and the precious with the inconsequential can alter that.”
Octavia Cook, 2007
In 2002 Octavia launched the fabricated company ‘Cook & Co,’ appropriating the name of one of the world’s largest jewellery houses; ‘I wanted to play on the idea of ‘Tiffany & Co’ being an ultraluxe multinational, as Cook is such an unglamorous name.’ Part homage to the tradition of jewellery marketing, the company is also ‘…a response to the eponymous jewellery lines of fashion designers untrained in jewellery.’
In a humorous act of self-aggrandisement, the jeweller uses Cook & Co to transform herself from solitary artist to fashion institution. Her jewellery however, is far from elitist. Rather, it exhibits an overarching degree of democracy. In a show of ‘mutual appreciation,’ the founder of Cook & Co makes a (literal) cameo appearance. With her characteristic ponytailed silhouette, the artist’s profile adorns the breast of HRH Queen Elizabeth II and The Queen’s adorns hers, suggesting their parity (other cameo face-offs include The Maharani, ‘discoverer of New Zealand,’ Captain James Cook and various female monarchs).
Full of autobiographical references stemming from childhood rummages through her grandmother’s jewellery box, Cook uses the cameo to explore the possibilities associated with commemorative portraiture. While conveying little information about the subject, immortalisation in cameo format confirms the significance of the sitter. Playfully rendered large-scale in brightly coloured acrylics, sentimental symbolism is eschewed by her selection of benign subjects including herself, her family, even her cats. Her choice of media catches us off guard too. She sets laminated colour photocopies in sterling silver and her cameos and ‘pure gold’ chains are acrylic. Mixing the intimate with the official, her disingenuous jewellery challenges conventional notions of value, offering a contemporary, conceptualised take on the traditions of costume jewellery.
Octavia Cook (b.1978) graduated from Unitec, Auckland, with a Bachelor of Design in Jewellery in 1999. Since then she has exhibited widely across art, craft and design contexts. Her work has been selected for curated exhibitions at public galleries including Objectspace in Auckland, Wellington City Art Gallery and artist run spaces including Rm. 401. She has also produced jewellery collections for New Zealand fashion designers, Natalija Kucija and Nicholas Blanchet. In 2005 she was the recipient of a Creative New Zealand grant for new work that allowed her to develop the first Cook & Co monographic publication; ‘Cook & Co: The Family Jewels.’ In 2007 she was Highly Commended at the National Jewellery Awards, Wellington. Her work is represented in the collections of Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt. Venerable Heirlooms from the Cook & Co Coffers will be Octavia’s first solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, it will also be her first solo exhibition in Australia.
Exhibition opening: Wednesday 21 November, 6 - 8pm
Exhibition dates: 22 November – 15 December, 2007
Gallery hours: Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday 11am - 6pm